The rigors of an NHL schedule may be one of the most physically demanding tests in all of sports. The wear-and-tear of a hockey season can only be likened to that of an NFL campaign, but with five times as many games in the regular season.
“Resiliency” is one of the many metrics we utilize when evaluating NHL prospects, yet one of the more challenging values to accurately read and define. Common scoring metrics such as “games missed due to injury”, “injuries sustained per season”, “recurring injury rate” and “minutes missed due to injury” are all basic scoring means utilized to determine “resiliency”, yet still leave plenty of context on the analytics cutting room floor.
A good example of a resiliency evaluation we are currently conducting is the analysis related to Alexander Alexeyev, the Capitals” first-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Alexander Alexeyev And Resiliency
Alexeyev had an up-and-down 2018-2019 season. He started the campaign on fire. Offensively, he finished the first month of the season with seven goals, (two power play goals) and 13 assists for 20 points, (second-most on Red Deer) in 15 games played, for a 1.33 points per game average. Alexeyev registered 41 shots on goal for a 17.0 shooting percentage.
He would finish the 2018 calendar year with an impressive showing at this year’s World Junior Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia (recap is here). Alexeyev had two goals and four assists in seven games played. He totaled 12 shots for a shooting percentage of 16.7% for the tournament. He totaled 10 PIMs, registered one power play goal and one game-winning goal, and was a plus-9.
But that would be the high point of his season, as injuries brought the second half of his 2018-2019 campaign to a screeching halt.
We decided to review his last three seasons at Red Deer, to get a better read. Here’s a quick recap of the injuries he dealt with during his time with the Rebels.
Alexeyev played in 41 of 72 games during the 2016-2017 regular season, for a 56.9% play rate. He was out from October 28 to November 22, and then from January to April with two significant injuries.
He suffered an upper-body injury (shoulder) in the first part of the season, and a knee injury on January 28, that effectively ended his 2016-2017 season, (both would become a recurring theme in following seasons).
Lower body injury for Alexeyev. No weight on his right leg as he’s helped to the Rebels dressing room.
— Troy Gillard (@Troy_Gillard) January 29, 2017
He missed the playoffs in 2017 because of the knee injury.
Alexeyev played in 45 of 72 games for a 63.5% play rate, however, it should be noted that he did miss games due to personal matters, not related to an injury.
Alexeyev suffered an upper-body injury (shoulder) on September 29 and did not return to the lineup until October 28.
— Perry Bergson (@PerryBergson) September 30, 2017
Alexeyev missed time from January 20 to February 12 to attend to a personal matter, which was likely due to the death of his mother. Rumor was he also had trouble re-entering Canada on his return from Russia.
Finally, Alexeyev suffered an injury on February 28 that had him miss the remainder of the regular season, and the first two games of Red Deer’s postseason run.
No sign of Alexander Alexeyev on the ice or the Rebels bench at the moment
— Troy Gillard (@Troy_Gillard) March 1, 2018
Alexeyev played in the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, Rebels lost in seven games in the first round to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He missed the first two games of the series then came back in Game 3.
Alexeyev played in 49 of 72 regular season games for Red Deer, a career-high, and 68.1% of the season. He suffered four separate injuries and missed all of the Rebels’ playoff run due to a knee injury. Here’s a closer look at Alexeyev’s injuries sustained during the 2018-2019 campaign.
First injury of season:
The month of December included a couple of injury scares for the Capitals’ 2018 first-round draft pick. Alexeyev took a high hit from Regina’s Liam Schioler in the second period on December 7, and would leave the game. However, he would return for the start of the third period. (here).
And we had Red Deer’s Alexander Alexeyev take a high hit from Regina’s Liam Schioler. No call was made on the play. Alexeyev left the game but later returned. pic.twitter.com/p5QOPpMx55
— Brandon Rivers (@BriversWHL) December 8, 2018
Second Injury of the season
Alexeyev was then hit awkwardly into the boards by Blazers forward Zane Franklin in the first period on December 11 (here and here), and was taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital. Alexeyev underwent an x-ray and a CAT scan and both were negative, as disclosed Rebels General Manager/Head Coach Brent Sutter. He was cleared the next day and returned to the lineup the following game on December 14.
Kamloops’ Zane Franklin given 5 and a GM for boarding Washington Capitals first-round pick and Red Deer Rebels d-man Alexander Alexeyev tonight. It has been reported that Alexeyev left the game and is at the hospital. pic.twitter.com/OlKNRiqYM1
— Brandon Rivers (@BriversWHL) December 12, 2018
Another angle of the hit. pic.twitter.com/EmwjhQMz4m
— Brandon Rivers (@BriversWHL) December 12, 2018
Third Injury of the season
Alexeyev returned from World Juniors to Red Deer starting on January 9 then suffered another injury in a game against the Calgary Hitmen on January 19. He left the game, but returned to finish the game. However, he was scratched the following night against the Hitmen and against Medicine Hat on January 25. He also missed the remaining two games of the month. According to local sources, Alexeyev had been seen with his shoulder in a sling, and it looked like he injured the same shoulder he injured last season. He was listed “week-to-week”, ultimately returning to the lineup on February 8.
Fourth injury of the season
The 2018-19 season was really up and down for Alexeyev. He started it with a bang, but after going through three injuries already in the season, he suffered a significant knee injury on March 9 (here) that would ultimately end his season, and conclude his playing time in the WHL.
— JohnnyBravo (@JohnnyBravo_05) March 9, 2019
Alexeyev has sustained no less than eight injuries in 156 games played over the last three seasons with Red Deer, which has caused him to miss a significant number of games. The injuries ranged from moderate to severe, capping his seasons at 41, 45 and 49 regular season games played (out of 72 regular season games in the WHL). That’s 45%, 33% and 28% of the games in the last three seasons.
While it’s true Alexeyev has never played more than 49 games in any leagues regular season (WHL or Russia), he has also played in international games for Russia during most seasons. If you include those games, Alexeyev played in 67 games total last season, a career-high. His next most games played in a season was 48 games played during the 2017-2018 season.
In the end, Alexeyev played in 135 of a potential 212 regular games during his time in Red Deer, for a cumulative 63.7% play rate.
Alexeyev has played in 156 games over the passed three seasons, including international play. He’s played in 135 of a possible 212 regular season games over those three seasons. In those three seasons, he has sustained eight injuries that caused him to miss games, ranging from moderate to severe in nature.
As much as we want to weaponize our curiosity, “resiliency” requires so much more to accurately define, and is really a byproduct of many immeasurable elements. Preparation and conditioning, position, minutes per game, time on ice, line mates, quality of teams, are all key components to an accurate resiliency rating.
Measuring and evaluating why one player can withstand the physical rigors of a hockey season better than another player of similar skill and playing level will continue to evolve, with refined output slowly improving, but it’s still somewhat of a black art. However, with new methods or measurement and analysis between the horizon and our doorstep, the information and wisdom gap is closing
The Challenge for 2019-2020 Season
Alexeyev will be stepping up to the American Hockey League this fall which comes with a 76-Game regular season schedule. He will likely assume a starting role early in the season, if not from the start, so he will likely be physically tested early in his campaign. His previous injury record is just that, in the past, but the recurring injuries to shoulders and knees are concerning, and should be monitored closely.
Its still way too early in Alexeyev’s hockey career to draw any conclusions regarding resiliency, but by establishing a baseline of this nature, we can better follow his progress and development as he progresses to hopefully playing time the NHL someday soon.
By Jon Sorensen
Thanks to Red Deer and Western Canada media for assistance with this report, including Byron Hacket of the Red Deer Advocate, who provided significant detail to the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons in this report.