Alex Alexeyev

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Alex Alexeyev says player who knocked him out of the Prospects Showcase 'shouldn’t play hockey'

Alex Alexeyev says player who knocked him out of the Prospects Showcase 'shouldn’t play hockey'

Hershey, Pa. -- Not much seems to phase Capitals prospect Alex Alexeyev. Off the ice you can almost always find the 19-year-old defenseman with a smile on his face. On the ice he has already earned a role on the top-pair in his first professional season with the Hershey Bears.

But if there is one person that gets under Alexeyev’s skin, it is Josh Healey.

Alexeyev came to Capitals training camp in August and looked poised to compete for the roster spot left open by Michal Kempny’s injury. He never got the chance after Healey connected with a hit to the head of Alexeyev in the Prospects Showcase.

Healey, 25, a minor league player who currently plays for the Milwaukee Admirals, delivered a high hit to Alexeyev very late in the second period of a game between the Caps and Nashville Predators prospects. Alexeyev suffered a concussion on the play and did not return for the rest of the tournament or play at all in the Caps' preseason.

Yeah, Alexeyev is still mad about it.

“It's terrible. How old is this guy, like 26 years old?” Alexeyev said of the hit. ”I think there was like two seconds (left) of the second period and then just go straight to your head, it's stupid. This player shouldn't play hockey. If you want to do something like this go to beer league or something, but it's not at this level.”

The concussion was especially frustrating considering Alexeyev's WHL career was brought to an end by a knee-on-knee hit in March that ended his season with Red Deer.

But he did not get discouraged from the two bad hits or from being robbed of a chance to compete to start the season in the NHL. He battled back to return for the start of the AHL season where he scored his first professional goal in the first shift of his first game.

“It felt awesome,” Alexeyev said. “Had how many months, like six or something off, to not playing and first goal, first shift, unbelievable feeling. I think it's fired me up for the rest of this season so it feel better now.”

The key to coming back was keeping his positive attitude.

As mad as Alexeyev may still be about the hit from Healey, he never got frustrated or down about two two injuries in just a few months and just worked to return as soon as he could.

“It's hockey. Injuries happen,” Alexyev said. “I don't know how to answer, but I can tell you this, tough time (don’t) last long, tough people do.”


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6 Capitals prospects to watch in the Prospects Showcase

6 Capitals prospects to watch in the Prospects Showcase

Hockey is back! Well, sort of. While the start of the NHL season is still weeks away, actual games will be played starting this weekend in Antioch, Tenn. as the Prospects Showcase begins. The Capitals are once again participating in the tournament that will also feature prospects from the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Washington’s first game is on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Whatever happens in a prospect tournament should be taken with a grain of salt. Whether players struggle or dominate, it has little bearing on their NHL hopes. Having said that, there are a number of prospects who Washington will be watching very closely.

Here are six players you need to watch in the Prospects Showcase.

Alexander Alexeyev

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Washington’s first-round pick from 2018, but how close is Alexeyev to being NHL ready? This tournament may give us a sense of that.

Granted, Alexeyev is a first-round talent playing primarily against players who were picked below him in the draft or perhaps are even free agent invites. He should be one of the best players in the tournament because he is one of the best players on the roster, at least on paper. That means the bar will be set very high.

The salary cap crunch in Washington has left the entire blue line in flux. There are spots on the third pairing up for grabs and it would solve a lot of problems if a player on an entry-level deal like Alexeyev were to show he was ready. That is a lot to ask for a player who just wrapped up his junior career, and we should not go into this tournament expecting Alexeyev to simply be the best player on the ice. Though if he wants to make a real push to reach the NHL this season, it would probably have to begin with a strong showing in Antioch.

Also, let’s not forget Alexeyev’s season ended with a brutal knee injury. We have seen him at informal skates, he scrimmaged against other prospects in the NHLPA’s rookie showcase, where he said the knee was “amazing” and he had zero limitations. Now we get to see him in a competitive game situation.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

Jonsson-Fjallby has NHL speed and projects as a bottom-six NHL forward. He did himself no favors last season, however, when he left Hershey after just 16 games to return to Sweden. Regardless of the personal circumstances that may have led to his decision, the problem is he has very limited experience playing the North American game. This offseason we saw Caps general manager Brian MacLellan sign Carl Hagelin, Richard Panik and Garnet Hathaway, four players who will play primarily on Washington’s bottom two lines, to four-year contracts. That is pretty damning for how far away he thinks Jonsson-Fjallby is from the NHL.

Being in Tennessee, obviously this tournament will be played on a North American-sized rink. Jonsson-Fjallby is a player to watch just to see how he handles the smaller rink and faster style of play.

Brett Leason

At 20-years old, Leason is supposed to be a lot closer to the NHL than most second-round draft picks are immediately after getting drafted. I have no doubt he will start the season in Hershey and probably stay there for the next year, but who knows after that?

Leason has a big frame and lots of tools, but how far along is he really? Physically, he should be one of the most mature players in the tournament. If Leason excels, that is a good indication he is right where he is supposed to be in terms of development. If not, then it may mean more than a year in Hershey to hone his skills and prepare him for the NHL.

Connor McMichael

McMichael is the first forward taken in the first round by Washington since Jakub Vrana in 2014, but reviews on him were mixed after he was selected. Some thought he was a reach and there were better targets available, while others loved the pick. This tournament will give us our first glimpse of him playing in a Caps jersey, allowing us to see if McMichael really was a first-round talent or if the Caps reached.

Ilya Samsonov

In case you have been living under a rock, Braden Holtby is on the last year of his contract, and it is going to be very hard for the Capitals to bring him back. So the question is not if Samsonov should get NHL playing time this season, it's when?

The decision of whether or not to move on from Holtby and anoint Samsonov as the new starter will not be made based on anything he does in this tournament, but it will give the team a gauge of just how far along Samsonov is in his development. Should the team call him up early in the season? Later? Is he not progressing as hoped? Is he ahead of schedule?

Samsonov looked very raw last year and still in need of more time to develop. With a decision on Holtby’s future coming in the next year, however, Samsonov’s timeline may be speeding up a bit. A solid showing in the tournament would certainly help the team feel better about getting him some NHL games this season.

Joe Snively

Most college free agents do not turn into big-time NHL prospects or players. Ultimately, there is usually a reason why they did not get drafted. Snively, however, may prove to be the exception.

Snively excelled in college, scoring 36 points in each of the past two seasons at Yale. He stepped into Hershey last season for nine games and recorded two goals and five assists. He should be even better this year as he grows more accustomed to the pros.

Still, because we have only seen him in a handful of games in the AHL, it's hard to gauge what his potential may truly be. That makes him very intriguing in this tournament. How does he stack up against other top prospects around the league?


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A healthy and confident Alexeyev knows it will take time to adjust to the pros

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A healthy and confident Alexeyev knows it will take time to adjust to the pros

Capitals’ fans collective hearts stopped when Alex Alexeyev suffered a knee injury in March. He had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher after taking a serious knee-on-knee hit that raised legitimate concerns as to whether he would be ready for the 2019-20 season.

It took just five months for Alexeyev to go from being stretchered off the ice to skating with the best prospects in the world.

Alexeyev took part in the National Hockey League Players’ Association rookie showcase on Sunday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. The event is held primarily to give the NHL’s trading card partner, Upper Deck, the chance to capture pictures and videos of top prospects in NHL uniforms.

“Supposed to be day off but whatever I guess,” Alexeyev said, though jokingly. He quickly added, “I took a couple pictures. It's fun actually. I'm really happy.”

Among the players who attended were 2019 No. 1 overall pick, Jack Hughes, his brother Quinn, Adam Fox, Dylan Cozens, and Alexeyev.

After Sunday it is safe to say that fears over Alexeyev’s knee can officially be laid to rest. He had been participating in informal skates with the Caps prior to that and he also took part in a slow-paced scrimmage with the other prospects at the end of Sunday’s event. He even scored the first goal as he found himself alone in the slot and fired the puck past Dallas Stars prospect Jake Oettinger. He finished the scrimmage with two goals.

“Amazing,” Alexeyev said of his knee when asked how it felt. “One-hundred percent.”

He also said there would be no limitations heading into training camp.

With confirmation that he is healthy, the question now is what comes next for one of the top prospects in the organization?

Alexeyev will turn 20 in November and will move on from the WHL to the professional ranks. Washington's roster is pretty crowded at the blue line, but Alexeyev is determined to compete for a spot in the NHL this year.

“I set up goals for me to make the team but you know, anything could happen,” he said. “So if I even get in Hershey I will be there and I want to be the best there.”

Alexeyev is a skilled defensemen at both ends of the ice. Though he is no John Carlson in terms of his offensive upside, he has a good shot and is a skilled stick-handler. He has good size, mobility and is good on the breakout. In terms of potential, he is seen as a top-four, perhaps even top-pair caliber player.

But it will still take time to get there.

The good news is that, despite being Russian, he will not be adjusting to the North American game for the first time. Alexeyev has spent the last three seasons playing for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL. Adjusting to the different rink size is not something he will face in his first-year pro. The physicality of the game, however, is a different story.

“Their hockey a lot like more hitting and a lot harder,” he said of the AHL. “So it's going to be like one year probably to adjust to this type of hockey and I think I will be good.”

But Alexeyev remains hopeful that he will adjust and have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. Even when surrounded by some of the top prospects in the world, he did not lack for confidence.

When asked if he felt he belonged when skating with those players, Alexeyev got a big smile on his face and answered simply, “Yeah.”