Minutes after hearing his name at the 2018 NHL draft, Alexander Alexeyev was welcomed to his new team in the most Capitals way possible: a FaceTime call from an exuberant Alex Ovechkin. “First time he’s calling me, it’s like some crazy guy,” Alexeyev said. “But I still can’t believe or forget those feelings. It was amazing.”
With Ovechkin on the welcoming committee, Russian prospects have long felt at home in Washington. “He’s like a dad for us,” said Alexeyev, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound defenseman who could soon join countrymen Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov in D.C.
The Caps selected Alexeyev 31st overall in 2018, and team execs have been impressed with his versatility. In three years with WHL Red Deer, he emerged as a power-play quarterback and a hardnosed defender. “He’s a very intelligent player,” said Capitals assistant GM Ross Mahoney. “Really patient with the puck on the power play, and he’s a big body that can anticipate and break up a lot of plays in his own zone.”
Added Red Deer coach Brent Sutter: “When healthy, he was a dominant player.” The “when healthy” caveat may follow Alexeyev until his luck changes. He suffered multiple injuries in his three seasons with Red Deer, never playing more than 49 games of the 72-game schedule. He also missed three weeks during his draft year after the sudden passing of his mother. “He went through some very tough times,” Sutter said. “It was hard on him, really devastating. But he came back from everything. He grew. He’s fought through so much. He might end up being the hidden gem in that draft. Had he stayed healthy, he could have gone in the top 15.”
Alexeyev was expected to compete for a spot on the Caps’ season-opening roster, but a concussion sustained at a September prospect tournament sidelined him for Washington’s main camp. When Alexeyev returned in October, he scored on his first pro shift with AHL Hershey. A cameo in Washington this year is a strong possibility. – Ben Raby