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Capitals Prospect Report: Welcome to the pros, Alex Alexeyev

Capitals Prospect Report: Welcome to the pros, Alex Alexeyev

It took all of training camp for Capitals prospect Alex Alexeyev to recover from a hit to the head delivered at the Prospects Showcase. Once he did, it took just 62 seconds for him to make an impact.

In his first season as a pro, it took Alexeyev just 62 seconds to score in his Hershey Bears debut.

The two most highly regarded defensive prospects in the organization are Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary who stuck with the Caps through training camp and was able to play the first three games of the season. I believe Alexeyev would have been in the running for that roster spot on the blue line to start had he been healthy.

But he wasn’t and that is the one major concern for him going forward.

I like Alexeyev as a prospect a lot. I see his ceiling as a top-pair NHL defenseman. The problem is he has struggled to stay healthy.

Alexeyev played three seasons in the WHL. In this first two seasons, the league played a 72-game regular season. That was shortened to 68 in his final year. Alexeyev, however, never played more than 49.

There is an element of luck to this as last season was ended by a knee-on-knee hit and, as mentioned before, he took a bad hit to the face during the prospects showcase. Still, as the saying goes there is no greater ability than availability and until he shows he can stay in the lineup, this is the greatest question mark about Alexeyev.

As I said, I think Alexeyev could have been in the running to start with the NHL squad for the first week of the season, but he was always going to ultimately end up in Hershey. Now that he’s there, I am not sure it would make sense to recall him if there is a long-term injury to the lineup. The Caps need to see if he can handle a full season in the pros before throwing him to the wolves in the NHL.

Other prospect notes

  • Some extra depth at the NHL level for the Caps is good news for Hershey as it meant getting some unexpected players back in the lineup. Last week, Christian Djoos and Pheonix Copley passed through waivers. On Sunday, Travis Boyd was also placed on waivers and cleared on Monday. Boyd was the Bears’ MVP in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Don’t just assume he will remain in the AHL long-term. He has a low cap hit of only $800,000. It would not be surprising to see him land back in Washington at some point this season.
  • Djoos scored his first goal of the season in Hershey’s first game.
  • Hershey will not have a captain this year and instead will go with four alternates. Liam O’Brien and Erik Burgdoerfer will wear the A for home games while Mike Sgarbossa and Matt Moulson will get the A for road games.
  • Defenseman Kris Bindulis has been reassigned to South Carolina in the ECHL.
  • NHL draft analyst Scott Wheeler wrote an article listing one prospect for every team poised to have a breakout season. His pick for Washington? One of their 2019 draft picks.
  • Connor McMichael will wear an A for the London Knights this season.

  • Aliaksei Protas saw his six-game point streak snapped on Saturday, but he wasted no time starting a new streak soon after. Protas scored a goal and two assists to help lead Prince Albert to a 4-2 win over Vancouver on Tuesday. He earned first star of the game honors for his efforts.
  • Eric Florchuk made his return from a shoulder injury on Sunday tallying an assist in Saskatoon’s shootout loss to Brandon. He was named the third star of the game.
  • Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey New ranked his top 100 players to watch in the NCAA this season. Only one Caps prospect made the cut. Defenseman Benton Maass is entering his junior season at New Hampshire this season. He tallied 17 points as a freshman, but managed only six as a sophomore. Clearly Kennedy is expecting a bit of a rebound for Maass.

 

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The 6 most important things Brian MacLellan said about new Caps acquisition Brenden Dillon

The 6 most important things Brian MacLellan said about new Caps acquisition Brenden Dillon

ARLINGTON, Va. --  While the Capitals were on the road, Brian MacLellan was hard at work and finalized a deal on Tuesday to bring San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon to Washington. On Wednesday he met with the media to talk about the newest Cap.

"He's got playoff experience, he's a veteran player, physicality, the ability to play with top-end guys, a good character guy," MacLellan said. "I think he'll add a lot of energy in our room and on the ice. He's a physical presence. He checked a lot of boxes for everything we thought we needed."

Here are the six most important things MacLellan said about Dillon.

Dillon may be a top-pair player

Dillon is certainly a top-four defenseman, but the Caps added a player they feel can play on the top pair.

"I think we move him around a little bit," MacLellan said. "He could play with [John Carlson], could play with [Dmitry Orlov]. He's played with two good guys in San Jose. I anticipate the coaches trying him at both spots and see what works best for us."

Todd Reirden echoed those thoughts after practice.

When asked if Dillon playing with Brent Burns made him a natural fit to play with Carlson on the top pair, Reirden said, "That's my first initial thought. That is a similar type of player for sure."

Either Kempny or Jensen is going to get bumped out of the top four

When you re-read MacLellan's comments on Dillon playing in the top four, he said he could play with either Carlson or Dmitry Orlov. Adding a player into the top four means taking someone out and, based on those comments, that player is either going to be Michal Kempny or Nick Jensen.

Dillon is not the solution for the team's problems on the right

Right defense has been an issue for the Caps this season, but it does not sound like the plan is to plug Dillon in on the right side.

MacLellan was asked if Dillon could play on his off-side and he gave a tepid endorsement.

"He could, yeah," MacLellan said. "I think he's played a little bit on the off-side, but Orly's had some experience playing on the off-side. There's a number of different combinations we could try."

Reirden was asked who would play the right if Dillon and Orlov played together, and he said it would be Orlov.

While both MacLellan and Reirden said it would be an option to try Dillon on the right, it did not sound like that was the long-term plan at all.

This was not a reaction trade

Washington has lost four of its last five games and is 11-11-0 since Dec. 23. The team suddenly no longer sits in first place in the Metropolitan Division and trails the Pittsburgh Penguins by a point in the standings. The Caps' recent struggles, however, did not influence this deal, at least according to MacLellan.

MacLellan stated twice that he would have made this deal "regardless because I think it's a great fit for us — I think his skillset and the group we do have. I think one of the things that's been frustrating for me is the play in front of our own net, the compete level in front of our own net, and this is something he brings to the table here. I think he does a great job in front of our net. So I think we addressed that through him."

It should be noted that MacLellan has previously stated he was only looking for depth at the trade deadline and now has acquired a player who may well end up playing on the team's top pair. If you take him at his word, however, MacLellan liked Dillon and liked the upgrade, and that's why this deal got done — not because of the team's current struggles.

Dillon's playoff experience is a major reason why he is now with Washington

Last season, MacLellan traded for a defenseman playing a significant role on a bad team in Nick Jensen. Jensen had zero playoff experience and that showed in the team's postseason series against the Carolina Hurricanes. This year, MacLellan elected to go a different route.

Dillon has 62 games of playoff experience under his belt and helped the San Jose Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 and the Western Conference Final in 2019.

MacLellan was asked how much that experience mattered to him, and he said, "A lot. A lot. I think he’s been in the final. He’s been on good teams, similar to us. I think San Jose and Washington had top teams for a long time and he’s been in that environment, so I think it’s a good fit.”

Physical play is still a major part of the team's identity

Dillon is not the type of player you go out an acquire if physicality is not a priority.

For the season, Dillon ranks ninth in the NHL with 178 hits. His acquisition means the Caps now have five of the top 21 hitters in the league.

"I think we're all attracted to size as long as it can play," MacLellan said. "We like having the big bodies and playing a heavier game, and he's a good skater for his size, too. He has that physical presence, and we're excited to see how it fits for us."

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Here's how you can score free Chipotle by wearing your Caps jersey Friday

Here's how you can score free Chipotle by wearing your Caps jersey Friday

Now's your chance to score some free Chipotle, Caps fans!

By wearing your favorite Capitals jersey on Friday, you can earn a free entree through Chipotle's "suit up and score" campaign with the purchase of another entree of equal or lesser value.

While all jerseys qualify for the promotion, we recommend Alex Ovechkin's as he goes for goal No. 700.

So rock your red, grab a friend and head to Chipotle for this awesome deal redeemable Friday, Feb. 21 only.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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