Evaluating The Performance Of Alex Alexeyev

The situation seemed less than ideal at the start of the season. It appeared young defenseman Alex Alexeyev and the Washington Capitals we’re in a bit of a sticky wicket. 

Alexeyev, 23, has been developing at a good pace, but he wasn’t quite ready to assume a full-time role on the Capitals blueline right out of training camp. To compound the complexity of the situation, Alexeyev would need to clear waivers in order to return to Hershey for additional seasoning. On top of it all, Alexeyev was recovering from shoulder surgery he had back in June.

Alexeyev was officially re-assigned to Hershey on October 28th for a conditioning stint after rehabbing from shoulder surgery he had back in June. His stint concluded on November 6, requiring a move by the Capitals. The Capitals announced on November 8 that they recalled Alexeyev from Hershey.

Alexeyev has played in 11 games so far this season, so the sample size is rather small. In this post, we’ll take a look at how Alexeyev has performed in that relatively small sample size. Additionally, we’ll take a look at Alexeyev’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) value. The statistics in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics glossary.

On-Ice Performance

As mentioned in the introduction to this post, Alexeyev is in an interesting predicament. Since he’s eligible for waivers, the Capitals are keeping him up with the team after being recalled in early November.

With that, he’s been mostly serving as the seventh defenseman, but has seen some game action so far this season. Let’s take a look at how Alexeyev is performing in terms of advanced analytics:

At first glance, Alexeyev’s advanced analytical performance is rather ho-hum. He’s significantly below the 50% watermark in Corsi shot attempts (CF%), Fenwick shot attempts (FF%), shots for (SF%), expected goals for (xGF%), scoring chances for (SCF%), and high-danger chances for (HDCF%). Interestingly enough, he’s sitting at 50% for goals for percentage (GF%) and 66.67% for high danger goals for percentage (HDGF%).

As it stands, the GF% and HDGF% won’t stay as high as they are if the rest of the statistics continue their trend. It’s not sustainable to allow more shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and shots on goal and still be on the ice for more goals for than against.

Shift Starts

What’s really interesting here is Alexeyev’s offensive zone start percentage. He’s only getting 26.92% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone, which means Laviolette is not sheltering his shifts at all.

While zone starts are not necessarily the end-all-be-all explanation for struggling in possession stats, they’re certainly a contributor. If you start in your defensive zone or the neutral zone the majority of the time, the odds aren’t in your favor for possession stats. On the other hand, an important part of the game is exiting the defensive zone with the puck under control and establishing possession in the offensive zone. We just haven’t seen that last aspect translate to Alexeyev’s game when he’s on the ice.

Goals Above Replacement and Expected Goals Above Replacement

First up, let’s take a look at Alexeyev’s on-ice value in each GAR metric:

This is where we can see the impact of GF% and HDGF% effectively buoying Alexeyev’s value on the ice, particularly in defensive GAR. You can also see that Alexeyev’s offensive GAR is below replacement level, which is not surprising considering his current utilization and performance.

Since his GF% and HDGF% are effectively much higher than the expected percentage range based off his possession and expected goals percentages, Alexeyev’s expected GAR (xGAR) tracks more with the underlying statistics than the GF% and HDGF% rates:

Based on Alexeyev’s xGAR, he likely should be performing at a level that’s considered below replacement. Effectively, that means that a typical “replacement level” player could step in and perform better than he is currently in xGAR.

Alexeyev’s low xGAR is more a matter of his performance in the underlying statistics we mentioned a bit earlier. It’s not typical for a player to struggle in possession metrics and expected goals to have positive GAR value, but since Alexeyev has a rather small sample size this season, his GF% and HDGF% performance really rises his actual GAR value.

The Takeaway

All in all, we’ve mentioned a couple times in this post that Alexeyev has a small sample size to evaluate thus far this season. With only 11 games under his belt and an average ice time of 13:35 in each game, it’s rather hard for a rookie defenseman to establish himself and have positive value.

Overall, there are relatively few defensemen who can step in as a rookie and make an immediate impact. It’s clear there are areas for him to improve, but his usage and utilization isn’t doing him any favors.

As we’ve come to be familiar with, the Capitals have more questions than answers when it comes to young defensemen in the system that aren’t named Martin Fehervary. It’s rather clear that Alexeyev would benefit from a bit more seasoning in Hershey to polish his game, but the Capitals also don’t want to expose a former first round draft pick to be claimed on the waiver wire. Ultimately, improvement is all that can be asked for in Alexeyev’s game when he plays in games at the NHL level.

By Justin Trudel

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Alexander Alexeyev Scores First Professional Goal on First Career Shift in Hershey Bears’ Game Against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
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About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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18 Responses to Evaluating The Performance Of Alex Alexeyev

  1. Anonymous says:

    I guess the plan is to hide him all season, hope he develops some. Hopefully Caps don’t need that roster spot, but there is an argument to be made that they do need that spot for a forward.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Just bad timing, contractually for Alex. He needed one more year in Hershey.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sticking him with Irwin doesn’t help his stats. I think he has looked pretty good in the limited time and with his limited opportunities. Hopefully he will continue to get playing time while JC is out.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      It’s tough to find another spot for him, but I get what your saying. Playing in the third pair is tough to show your wares.

      • hockeydruid says:

        Have a question for you Jon: As Carlson is making $8M a year for the next 3 years after this lost season is there anyway that the Caps can honestly afford to keep Orlov? He is making $5.1m now and will want more after the season as a UFA, I’m thinking $8 to $9M. May it not be better to trade him soon and receive a nice pick or picks and players for him? IF that was done, don’t you think then there would be plenty of playing time for AA and even some for Johansen? After all isn’t it better to get something for some of the UFA/RFA on this team then letting them walk for nothing especially a player like Orlov?

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          It’s a good question Druid. Consider Carlson,is the only d-man under contract after this season, any deal for Orlov would have to likely be made at trade deadline and I don’t see it. He’s their best d-man this season and arguably last. Everything else,is up in the air in my opinion.

          • hockeydruid says:

            Shame to see Orlov go but I honestly dont see how you can carry 4 players making $8 mil or more a year and one almost making $8. That would be 5 players making up almost 1/2 of the salary cap Sometimes you trade the older player making the high salary and keep the younger player making peanuts or cashews! Looking back wonder what the lines would look like and how the team would be playing if they had kept Stephenson and traded Eller and kept Siegenthaler and traded Jensen or TVR? .

  4. hockeydruid says:

    Sad taht the numbers game and salary cap problems are not allowing this young man more playing time along with a HC who doesnt like playing young players. I will be so glad when this season is over and we finally can move on from a HC who is/was as bad for this team as Todd Reardon. Hopefully the next HC will be one who can work with ALL players and age and years of experience will not matter.

    It is a shame that he has had so little playing time and the same with Protas and Snively. I still cant figure out, well I can as it involves the pleasing of the ego of Ted and the inability of the HC to coach younger players or want to, why is a season with so many UFA and RFA and so many injuries that they younger guys have not been given more of a chance than 11 games, 6 games for Snively and well Protas has gotten into 41 games this year.

    • Kiks says:

      Honestly? I agree he should play over Irwin, but blaming it only on age is not fair for coach either.

      Fehervary got his chance when he earned it even though it was over veteran D-man.

      • hockeydruid says:

        Then please explain the trades of Stephenson adn Siegenthaler? And dont say money as neither of them was making that much! In my opinion the Caps GM hangs unto players to long and lets productive young players go. There is something wrong with that picture.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          I still wake up in cold sweats thinking about Stevenson and Siegenthaler trades.

        • Kiks says:

          How many years it has been ?

          I am more than sure that Irwin and maybe even TVR are out for next year. Same with Lars and I honestly also think Anthony Mantha.

          I see no way where likes those young guys who stepped for older players would not be signed.

          I can not imagine us not keeping players like Strome, Milano or Fehervary at the and of the year at any cost.

          They all proved to be crucial for future of Caps.

          They will probably have to fill some spaces with younger players and this season has shown it. Does not mean that all older will go.

          Problem with AA is that despite being drafted over Fehervary he never proved to be better of duo. While Marty proved himself perfectly and no one doubts his qualities and what be brings to the team.

          And despite Marty having more experience now, you can clearly see why he made that roster ( and not being it the year of expansion draft would maybe play even a season sooner) and Alex still has not. Marty was NHL ready since Game one. Idk Alexyev if fully ready to this day.

          Even with his elbow not fully OK and playing in very unusual possition Marty has been very strong since return especially in D zone and he brought a lot to the game.

          Bare in mind that he played with Irwin or Alex with unstable partner, in third pair where he was supposed to be either visibly more experienced ( after little more than 110 games) or only one agile and moving.

          That is alone very difficult situation not to mention that he often changes partners during the game ( he played with everyone I feel) or often had parts of game when he stayed out of ice for quite long> mostly because of with who he played with not his own performance.

          That is hell of a difficult situation for player of his experience and I don’t feel he failed not even for second. On the other hand I have been impressed by him surprisingly especially after that injury.

          It is clearly visible that Alex still did not reached his level or level of full time NHL D while Fehervary is visibly ready to be teams top 2-3 D. And basically was ever since he came to the team.

          But I think we are barely using their full potential now as well. If I was to decide I would pair Alex with either Jensen or Orlov to take care of him and lead him like Hohn did with Marty. It will definitely help him massively. And pair Marty with the remaining one ( in best case Jensen since they have been very strong together). I think that is the best way how to extract their best from both youngsters. But what suprised me recently is how people do not realize Marty is still very young D as well and was thrown into very difficult situation after injury.

          Despite that I am convinced he has been defensively one of our best players, and he reached incredible level in 1,5 season.

          I am not convinced about it with Alex yet.

          • Jon Sorensen says:

            Good insight and plenty to think about, here. Kiks. I agree with your comparison of Fehervary and Alexeyev at this point in time.

            However, I will add also add that Alexeyev thrived during his year in the KHL. He rose to the top pair by mid-season, and even played on the right side when needed. I think he meets challenges, and that’s what he needs with the Capitals.

          • Anonymous says:

            For me there are moments where I like what I see from AA more than what I see from MF. Give him the same minutes and partners and see the results. Or wait until he goes to another team and watch the results and you can add him to your nightmares.

            • kiks says:

              Like when ?

              Definitely not in D zone.

              Also he proved many Times next to Marty that he is still not fully ready.

              Fehervary’s first 10-12 games were on very diferent level than AA.

              Not to mention he was even younger than AA.

              I Stand by point that Fehervary has been visibly better since he joined than AA is Now.

              Alexyev is maybe more visible offensivly but look how often he has troubles in D.

              In my opinion we need stable and consistent D in defence much more than one with ofensive potential.

              Also I think MF has strong potential in that area as well but he has got doferent roles.

              • Anonymous says:

                I believe you are overrating MF. He shows offensive flashes but not consistent. And frequently looks lost in the d zone. Not yet a top 3 dman. I hope he becomes that for us. Give AA the same chances. Hopefully they both will become top tier.

                • Kiks says:

                  Fehervary frequently looks lost in D-zone ? Where ?

                  There I can not agree.

                  He has to work on His offense thats for sure, but defensively ? He is on very good level and can be solid 2-3 D. He is defensively very developed player and barely makes huge mistakes and allowed very few goals recently even in that situation he played, when he was there on ice already in that age.

                  Idt there is anything to blame him for honestly > Gustavson for examples scores a Lot but is way worse D than Fehervary.

                  In D zone he is comfortably our top 3/4 player out of 7-8 who played. In team where Jensen or Orlov play.

                  With Carlson he has been the one who usually saved situation in D.

                  AT the same time Q remains Why AA did not get same chances over MF?

                  I agree They both still have potential to develop but MF is in my opinion on higher level.

                  He looked a bit off sometimes only Now when he plays not fully Ok, in third pair with Irwin or AA. Always changing partners even shift to shift.

                  When he is on ice in His stable possition he has been great in D and very relible.

                  I honestly hate that jidgement of Dman based on Wow efect or offence.

                  Honestly His game in His own zone needs very Little improvement other than experience. I think AA still has Lot to improve there.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Btw Fehervary bettered His offensive stats from last Year in 32 games he did better than last Year in 42.

                  While team in general scored less goals.
                  While he played in 2-nd pair or even 3-rd Now. With way less ice time especialy recently.

                  So in situation where it was less expected than when he played in 1-St.

                  Especialy after injury he has been very good on both sides of ice.

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