“I’d Never Had Grilled Cheese Before”: Capitals 2018 First-Round Pick Alexander Alexeyev Talks First Professional Season, Life in America, Alex Ovechkin, and More

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HERSHEY, PA — Alexander Alexeyev is one of the Capitals’ most heavily-prized prospects, and as the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018, there are a number of expectations placed upon him by both the team and fans alike. After making progress in juniors and an appearance in the World Junior Championships, the 31st overall pick from a year ago is in his first professional season with the Caps’ American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears. In this interview, NoVa Caps’ Zac Herr discusses Alexeyev’s adjustment to North America, recent injuries, his relationship with Ilya Samsonov, and love of Universal Studios, among other subjects.

As a person, Alexeyev is fun and charismatic. As a hockey player, he is a very talented defenseman. The Russian-born blueliner hails from St. Petersburg, the home of many Russian hockey greats. He arrived to the Capitals’ organization with a lot of promise, after playing three seasons in the Western Hockey League for the Red Deer Rebels in Canada.

Alexeyev looked potentially ready for the professional game when he was drafted. Unfortunately during his last season in Red Deer, Alexeyev suffered a severe knee injury that ended his2018-2019 campaign early.

After a lengthy recovery, he hasn’t missed a step in his first professional season, having scored one goal and seven assists for eight points in 18 games played so far this season. Solid defensive play has earned him plenty of ice time, as he continues to be a reliable asset on the Bears’ blueline.

So far, the recently turned 20-year-old (November 15) is enjoying his time playing for the Chocolate and White, enthusiastically responding, “Of course, of course!” when asked if he is liking it in Chocolatetown. 

With his injury in Red Deer, some may have been concerned as to how this may have affected Alexeyev’s career going forward. Injuring a knee at such a young age could have proved to be troublesome for the young defenseman, but as he began his offseason training, it was as if nothing had ever happened.

Following an offseason of rehabilitation with solid performance on the ice this fall, the former first-round pick looks to be pain-free and playing his best, saying, “Its 100%, it feels perfect”.

Something that is apparent when it comes to the young Russian rearguard is his relationship with fellow Russian and Capitals’ 2015 first-round pick, goaltender Ilya Samsonov. While one might expect a story about meeting during their childhoods or playing hockey together elsewhere, the two countrymen began their friendship in a fairly common way:

“We didn’t know each other before. But once I got drafted to (the) Caps, and my first development camp, I met him there. And he was on his phone and I just said, “Hey how’s it going?” He was a bit surprised, he didn’t know I could speak Russian and we just became friends. Then he invited me to his wedding and yeah we are still talking pretty much every day, which is good.” 

Photo: Alex Alexeyev

For a league that features players from all over the world, some players may adjust to life in North America better than others. After spending three years in Canada, Alexeyev felt he had a decent grasp of what life in the United States might be like. Living in Hershey is going well and is similar to what his lifestyle in Canada was like. Thankfully, for the prized prospect, the adjustment to Hershey has gone pretty smoothly:

“Pretty good! I mean, it’s the same as Canada. The only change for me is I’ve been in Canada for three years and this is my fourth year in North America.

While his living situation in America is going well, there were bound to be some new things to do, see, and experience compared to north of the border. Alexeyev has expressed some of his interests in the past, including the food, of which even the simple delicacies are at the top of his list:

“Steaks, steaks yea! And actually, my first year in Canada, in Red Deer, I never tried a grilled cheese sandwich before. So, I love it! That’s all I ate, I had them pretty much every day!” 

After expressing his love for grilled cheese, TV shows were the next topic of discussion. With a multitude of different shows and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, the young defenseman was bound to have some favorites, of which he was excited to discuss:

“Oh there’s a lot actually ha-ha! For three years in Red Deer, there [was] not much to do so I watched a lot of T.V. shows. I watched Suits, Game of Thrones, Flash, Riverdale, The Hundred. There is a lot of shows, I watched Money Heist. So pretty much whatever was on Netflix.”

Another American love of Alexeyev’s is the state of California, which came about for one pretty simple reason:

“Well my agent lives there, and every summer he brings me there for training camp and to train there.”

One thing that some may know about the rookie is his love for Universal Studios. Alexeyev recently made his first trip to the world-famous tourist destination and was like a kid in a candy store. Before the question about the trip could be finished, Alexeyev excitedly responded:

“Universal Studios! I watched some of those shows when I was a kid and I always heard about Universal Studios, but I never had the chance to go there. And it’s like ‘Now I’m here! Whoa!’ There is Walking Dead, Harry Potter, Jurassic World, there is everything! I was so excited I was like a little kid!”

After discussions about his time in America thus far, Alexeyev was asked a Capitals-related question. Being a fellow countryman with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is something special for Alexeyev, as in Russia, Ovechkin is seen as a hero for young hockey players. Alexeyev was asked what it was like meeting Ovechkin for the first time and what that can do to a kid from Russia:

“Just, you know, meeting a great, great player. A great hockey player. He’s a great person. I was shy at the start, but he made me feel comfortable around him and I feel better. And I still am talking to him sometimes.” 

Alexeyev is sure to continue to be a great asset for the Bears and eventually the Capitals in the future. His skill on the ice makes him a very reliable defenseman and his fun personality will make him a hit among fans. As he continues to grow and improve his game, he will likely see NHL time in the near future as one of the organization’s most highly-regarded prospects.

By Zac Herr

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3 Responses to “I’d Never Had Grilled Cheese Before”: Capitals 2018 First-Round Pick Alexander Alexeyev Talks First Professional Season, Life in America, Alex Ovechkin, and More

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