by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.
Hershey second-year forward Andrew Gordon looks at the drop-off in his numbers from last year to this season and sees significant progress made toward an eventual NHL job.
It’s not a contradiction in terms.
Gordon, by his own estimation, isn’t going to build a huge case for a promotion as a top-two line player. But with the Bears last season, that was exactly his role. In 58 games, he popped in 16 goals and 35 assists.
This year, Hershey is an embarrassment of riches on offense, as evidenced by its six-game winning streak from the start of the playoffs into the East Division Finals. A middle-of-the-road scorer can easily play a stealth-like game behind the brilliance of Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, Chris Bourque and Graham Mink. That’s the tact Gordon happily took this season, with 21-24 in 80 games.
The tradeoff was that Gordon, 23, got a large dose of third-line minutes, and the accompanying roles of penalty killer and trusted defender.
"That (falling stats) is never a good thing. But I feel I took major steps forward on this team," he said. "The role I play on this team is the role I aspire to play in the NHL. Last year, I might have had two assists, but we lost 3-2. This year, I might have had none, but blocked two shots and we win. I just want to contribute somehow on a game-by-game basis."
The bonus now is that as fun as it is to watch the dazzlers compile numbers during the regular season, it’s the grind-it-out style that Gordon has sunk his teeth into that produces chances in the playoffs. Through the Bears’ first seven postseason contests, Gordon produced two goals and two assists.
"If you see me in the playoffs, my job is to finish checks," he said. "I think in the playoffs I focus more on defense just because every inch you give an opponent could be your life. From a tight defense, you are going to breed opportunities."