Alex Alexeyev wound up for the slap shot as the puck trickled out to him at the blue line. But with space in front of him, he pulled back the stick and edged his way forward into the high slot before he finally began to feel the pressure and fired a snapshot that required a quick glove save from Ilya Samsonov.
Those are the kind of instincts and skill that first attracted the Capitals to Alexeyev in the draft and it was on full display during Saturday’s prospect scrimmage.
The scrimmage wrapped up Washington’s annual development camp and Alexeyev’s first as a member of the organization. He was drafted by the Capitals just one week ago in the first round of the 2018 draft.
Alexeyev’s skill stood out during the camp. In addition his strong play in Saturday’s scrimmage, he also played well in Thursday's’ 3-on-3 tournament as he scored the tournament-clinching overtime goal.
“[Alexeyev’s] a really intelligent player, extremely patient with the puck, good shot, skates really well,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said Friday. “I think he's going to have a very bright future with us.”
Development camp can be a tough adjustment for European players, but Alexeyev had an advantage in that he has already played two years in Canada in the WHL. Unlike a player like Samsonov, Alexeyev already had experience with the North American game and had a strong grasp of the language.
“He speaks very good English and so coming to his first camp, I think he was able to understand all the instructions that were given to him and he was able to communicate with his teammates,” Mahoney said. “That makes a big difference.”
The skill and potential are there, but the development is not and the 18-year-old defenseman will still need time to hone his skills before he sees action in the NHL.
He also will need to add muscle.
At 6-foot-4, 196 pounds, Alexeyev is not undersized, but he also knows that the physical nature of the NHL game will require him to bulk up.
“I don't think I am weak, but I think I need to be better in the physical part which is going to do this summer,” Alexeyev said. “I'm pretty sure I'm going to be better for September for main camp.”
He added, “It's really important here because the NHL guys is tough guys. They all strong so I have to be on this level too.”
But he also showed a maturity beyond his years when the prospects got a surprise visit from the Stanley Cup.
As a special treat, the Stanley Cup was brought into the locker room on Wednesday after practice for the prospects to see.
Alexeyev, however, would not have his picture taken with it.
“The Stanley Cup has been here, it's in dressing room,” he said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “It's so nice, make me smile. I didn't take a picture because I should deserve my Stanley Cup. Then I can take pictures.”
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