Evaluating Alexander Alexeyev’s Performance Through 15 Games

After watching quite a few Caps games from the press box this season, Alex Alexeyev was inserted back into the lineup on March 1st against the Anaheim Ducks after both Dmitry Orlov and Erik Gustafsson were traded leading up to the trade deadline. The newly acquired defenseman Rasmus Sandin couldn’t play against the Ducks due to visa and immigration issues.

Alexeyev was heavily utilized against the Ducks, skating for a total of 25:07 of time on ice, nearly seven minutes more than his season high of 19:19 on January 5th against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since the March 1st game against the Ducks, Alexeyev has skated 23:07 against the San Jose Sharks and 20:39 against the Los Angeles Kings.

With those increased deployments, it bodes well to take a first look at how Alexeyev has performed in the 15 contests in which he has appeared. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, and HockeyViz. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.

Five-on-five on-ice performance

First up, let’s take a look at how Alexeyev has performed in key performance metrics that measure how well the Capitals have controlled the possession and scoring chances when Alexeyev’s on the ice:

Overall, Alexeyev has struggled in each key performance metric outside of high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%). This looks rather bad on the surface, but there’s some context to add here in how Alexeyev has been utilized on the ice.The vast majority of Alexeyev’s shift starts are “on the fly”, meaning that his shifts started without a face-off. This is rather normal, but the low frequency of starting a shift where a face-off occurred in the offensive zone means that Head Coach Peter Laviolette isn’t sheltering Alexeyev at all.

Here’s Alexeyev’s shift starts when he’s on the ice for the face-off:

Laviolette is deploying Alexeyev in the defensive zone twice as often as in the offensive zone. This backs up the fact that Alexeyev isn’t being sheltered at all as a rookie defenseman.

Based on how Laviolette has deployed Martin Fehervary in his rookie season (58.36 offensive zone start percentage and 57.14 offensive zone face-off percentage) and Vinny Iorio currently (62.5 offensive zone start percentage and 54.55 offensive zone face-off percentage), we can surmise a couple reasons this is the case.

One, the front office wants to throw Alexeyev into the fire and see how he performs, mainly to judge whether or not they need to acquire another defenseman in the off-season. The other would be that they feel Alexeyev is better defensively than Fehervary was in his rookie season and can be trusted a bit more than Iorio currently.

Rate-Adjusted Plus-Minus

We’ve seen the on-ice metrics for possession and chance generation. Now let’s see how Alexeyev has performed in per sixty minute rates for those metrics in comparison to the league using Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM):

It’s no surprise to see Alexeyev’s expected goals for per sixty (xGF/60) or Corsi shot attempts for per sixty (CF/60) fall well below the replacement level of zero here. The interesting piece is that Alexeyev has actually fared rather well in expected goals against per sixty (xGA/60). This lends credence to the fact that Alexeyev is a bit further along defensively than he is offensively.

To add a bit more evidence to that, here’s Alexeyev’s isolated impact chart from HockeyViz:

Alexeyev isn’t exactly setting the world on fire defensively for the Capitals, but he’s still quite a bit ahead in xGA/60 than he is in xGF/60 during even-strength opportunities. He still needs to develop quite a bit more on both ends of the ice, but it’s certainly not a bad thing to have a defensively focused defenseman on this squad.

Alexeyev’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) value

Speaking of being a bit further along in defensive capability, here’s how Alexeyev’s player value looks using GAR, a metric that allows us to evaluate and value a player’s overall value on the ice in a myriad of situations:

Nearly 90% of Alexeyev’s total GAR of 1.9 is made up of his defensive value. The interesting piece here is that even with the struggles in the on-ice metrics, Alexeyev is still just ever so slightly above replacement level offensively.

Alexeyev is actually generating GAR value at a rather high rate when looking at his GAR per sixty minutes of play (GAR/60). Alexeyev’s GAR/60 of .49 is the second highest among defensemen who have played for the Capitals this season, only trailing Erik Gustafsson’s .606. The next highest defenseman in GAR/60 still on the roster is Trevor van Riemsdyk at .381.

So, although Alexeyev has had rather meager results in on-ice performance, he’s still above a replacement level player. This means he’s rightfully supposed to be an NHL player at this point.

If you extrapolate Alexeyev’s current GAR value and ice time proportionally to the amount of ice time van Riemsdyk has skated this season, Alexeyev would be worth about 9.91 GAR. That would have made him have the highest GAR among defensemen still with the team (he would be trailing Gustafsson, who has 12.5 GAR this season).

Alexeyev’s Future

As I alluded to earlier in the post, it seems like Alexeyev is getting thrown into the fire a bit after being a healthy scratch for nearly a month between his last appearance and the March 1st tilt against the Ducks. Part of that is just the state of the roster after the trade deadline, and the other seems like an effort to evaluate where Alexeyev’s game is currently.

That evaluation is going to be key for General Manager Brian MacLellan, who will need to decide if the Caps should acquire another defenseman this off-season. Alexeyev has solid upside, but has posted some meager results over his 15 game showing so far this season.

If Alexeyev continues to get chances to play every night the rest of the season and shows improvement, it would likely benefit the Caps more to focus their attention on finding another scorer for the forward group, since that’s an area of immediate need for success next season and beyond.

By Justin Trudel

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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38 Responses to Evaluating Alexander Alexeyev’s Performance Through 15 Games

  1. Jon Sorensen says:

    I think this is actually a perfect scenario for Alexeyev and the Capitals, as far as measuring his abilities. He should play every remaining game in order to give the team a good feel for where he is at, development wise. As you noted, the forward group/scoring is a bigger concern for me right now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think he’s locked down a starting job next season, by any means, but as you say, now is the time to figure it all out.

    • KimRB says:

      AA has room to grow his game. The things I’m looking for, since the season is lost, is does he look comfortable, are his breakout passes smart, and is he in position in his own zone. Mixed results, but he’s been better than Irwin and G. Carlsson

      Speaking of which, I hope after this last game, that everybody has a more realistic opinion of G. Carlsson. It’s one game yeah, but teams like the Kings, and Canes and Buffalo in our own conference, will eat him alive. At best, at VERY best, he’s a 7th D, or being a minute muncher in the AHL. He should NOT be in the Caps long term plans.

      • hockeydruid says:

        And I ask where did you get your degree and experience in sports management and evaluation? Reading as many articles as possible and then regurgitation what you have read but no education or practical or life experience?

        • KimRB says:

          Wassamatta U.

          Not only did I get my degree there, Junior, it’s a question I’m asking…… What’s the matter with u?

          You are entertaining though, I’ll give you that

        • KimRB says:

          So in your diseased little mind, only people who have degrees and experience in sports management can discuss hockey online? No one can express an opinion? Novices can’t say “he’s a good player, he’s a bad player, he’s mediocre”?

          Better get typing, Spanky. You got several million posts to write, to all those pretenders on various hockey sites thru out the world, who have neither degrees nor experience, but are only something called “fans”. They express similar opinions to mine every day.

          Let me know when you get to post 500,000. You can take a break then

          • Dave says:

            The Redskins used to be the home of the “quarterback controversy.” It looks like the Caps are now the home of the “6th/7th D controversy”!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of MF and AA.

    They think he is better than Fehervary defensively ? ( than someone in management or coach stuff is in bad place)

    He was only drafted higher because he was better offensively so how can he be better in D ? In my opinion, defensively he was always worse of duo and it applies to this day…….so no way that is the case.

    It is mostly because Fehervary was trusted 1-st pair responsibilities from day one, and managed perfectly for guy of his age. He played with John so logically his numbers are different in this aspect. Truth is he did minimum mistakes from day one and proved to be much more ready of this duo long time ago.

    Alex did not prove to be 100% ready to this day, but it is also a lack of NHL experience which he now has a huge opportunity to gain and should have been playing instead of Irwin for weeks! I would definitely give him a chance he must start playing some day ! Can not be kept in back up forever. He should be given decent chance and surely can play at least in 3-rd pair with guy like TVR in full time role next season.

    Despite I rate AA highly I don’t think he ended to be better D ( as draft possition indicated) than Marty and I am not sure if he ever will be.
    Since he has much less experience ( which means Marty will more likely be given those hard minutes etc. in coming years), also he will hardly be better in D-zone( where Marty is often our best player and that is his visible strength), he is not that physical and since I think Marty has huge O potential, if given a chance ( what he proved in recent games as well) I think it will be very difficult to match him there as well in coming years.

    But I also think Alex may be raised into more offensive/ creative D and Marty into more Shut-down/ two way guy ( not because he can not move puck, but because he is only D we have with that physicality in his game). That will differentiate them.

    But to this day I am way more impressed, by what I have seen from Marty than AA even though I think he is maybe less talented ( naturaly).

    • Anonymous says:

      Not sure I see it this way. MF has had good pairs and good opportunities. Still gets out of position too often. Like his offensive upside. Hopefully a different defensive system next year will help all of our Dmen.

      • Anonymous says:

        When ? Except of when he played with Irwin in 3-rd pair with Arm still in sling ? Than he had problems but not of His fault mostly I would say. Or with Alex himself > thats when he had most problems and who watched it knows that.
        He played with non stable partner most of the Year andNot to forget he is only 23 yo and is often trusted most dificult minutes of players. Think better how often he does costly mistakes, or Why he is the player Crosby or MacKinon hate to play against.
        His impact on play, when he is on ice is huge compared to when he is not. His stats may not be stellar this Year (despite ofensively he will match last season I think) but he has not lost anything.

        He was out of possition often ? Than what About Gustavson, Irwin etc etc. I definitely don’t see him doing Big mistakes ( unlike many others do). In stable pairing with Jens he is defensively our best player and he has been AT very high level ever since he first time stepped on ice.

        And surely still better than Alexyev. He was drafted high but what happens after is crucial > Fehervary developed faster and got to be better defensman for Now, without doubt.

        Seeing where he started ( and how he is developing) he still has place to improve of course, but is aleeady strong complex D-man.

        Is Alexyev that ? In my view No and we can not blame it on experience or age because Marty was very much that since day one.

        I think Fehervary is a future of our D with Sandin ( what also GM said) and I see him develop into better player as AA in future.

        • Anonymous says:

          I do like MF although maybe not as much as some others. This year he is a -9. Jensen a -1 for comparison. Speaks to defensive room for growth. Make excuses for MF about partners when he is typically paired with Carlson or Jensen while AA gets Irwin. AA might be further along if not for untimely injuries throughout his early career and of course HCPL refusal to give him quality time prior to the deadline. I would like to see AA get more NHL time before saying who will be better in the long term. They are both very young and could compliment each others game for a long time.

          • Anonymous says:

            He is -9 thanks to Playing with Irwin or switching partners during game. Have you watched those games?

            Do you really feel like Marty is making lot of costly mistakes ? Or he is not reliable ? Or that he is not developing well? Again he purely defensively may be our best player already maybe with TVR. And it is for second straight season. That’s why he is also trusted lot of PK minutes and plays against the best often because they don’t like playing against him.

            When he played with Jensen he barely had – game. Same with John.

            So you will speak about AA getting Irwin but who spent most time next to him this year ? Or near AA who had 10 games under belt at the time ?
            If I am not mistaken that was Fehervary so this really is not an excuse. He was given hardest job of all at the time with least experience and injured arm.

            Not to mentioned he collected most of them during January where whole team was rubbish while Alex played during December when we have been decent.

            Try to use eyes and if you do than you can not mean that those numbers are valid for MF real game or asset to the team. With John he was great and John really is not someone who will save for you in D-zone, right.

            Also as someone asked already why was MF given that time and AA not ?

            Not to mention we can compare their decision making or making mistakes in their first 15 games. That has little to do with partners. In that regard I am going with MF.

            It is not that I don’t rate AA highly, I just think Fehervary has lot of things to put on table which AA do not have and long term he will be more important.

            The place I imagined for AA ( since I really regard him as Offensive type of D ) was taken by Rasmus.

            I Hope AA gets full time role next year, but that will hardly be higher than in 3-rd pair.

            Since other two youngsters are proven, have more experience and both seem as better D man so far.

            But think about why Fehervary got through Lavi quite easily and was trusted in 1-st pair and Alex still did not get decent chance.

            Mistakes are normal for both. I am sure Fehervary will be even way better in coming years but I also think he is high level already and ready for big minutes, when lead right even productive in O while playing safe in D ( what he is doing and I can not believe someone argues that. He defensively is very strong and not sure if you can expect more at this age, in such situation he was this year and in team which conceives lot of goals in general). I just feel like AA would get excuse for everything due to age while people forget Marty is not any older. Also I am a bit suprised by level of excitement there was about for example Gus who ok had great Corsi but who also was defensively horrible many times, or even Jens > ok he is -1 but is he DEFENSIVELY really better player than Marty ? I really don’t think so.

            And that’s what I mean. Use eyes they tell you more than numbers and take context into equation.

            All what you are saying is basically truth, but it has reasons and bigger picture.

            I see future in all 3 from 2018 draft, but it is time to admit AA is for now worst of trio and that it to this point isn’t the development which( at least in my opinion) was expected from him (draft is never a guarantee).

            • Anonymous says:

              Nothing personal. I do watch games that is how I form my opinion. Make all the excuses you want to support your opinion. Guys are 23, all have room to improve. We will have to see over time how they rank. Just because PL doesn’t play AA doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ability. Soo Jonas Sieg for example. Maybe someone can look it up but I do not recall MF spending a lot of time with Irwin. Apologies if I hurt your feelings.

              • Anonymous says:

                And who did he play all the time since he got back from injury ?

                If you watched that games that carefully?

                Was not that Irwin ? When Matt was on ice that was 90% of time MF next to him, when in line up.
                Or Alexyev. Both Guys he had to cover for not getting help from. I am sorry that’s reality.

                He surely played more time next to Irwin than AA.

                Btw AA played also next to Fehervary and did mistakes he had to cover for.

                Just a reminder Marty was from day one a D-man who covered for others not opposite.

                You spoke about him playing with John but
                1. That is no way easier than starting in 3-rd
                2. John really is not a guy who will cover for you mistakes defensively.

                And if you watched them than some points you have said can not be meant serious.

      • Missy says:

        Something you seem to miss is WHY was Fehervary given those opportunities and those pairings? Why is he a core player while Alexyev is not. Why Fehervary stayed in the team and Laviolette gave him opportunity.

        Also too often for 23 yo? He has room for improvement, that’s no discuss, but he already is a great asset to team and I personaly can not wait to have him back anytime he is out. That he sometimes is off position is mostly because of how much Defence has to support ofense (applies to all Defenseman as problem ….That’s system error).

        And I take an argument of draft possition with Alexyev a bit strange taking into consideration Orlov for example was himself drafted 2-nd round and proved to be way better than most drafted infront of him.

        I say
        Carlson- Fehervary
        Jensen- Sandin ( to balance those pairings)

        For next season and I will be happy. More concerning is Ofense for me.

    • I’m not sure I’d say that Alexeyev is better defensively than Fehervary. It’s just more along the lines of what we’ve seen in terms of player value so far, Alexeyev is better defensively than he is offensively.

      At this point, I think Fehervary has a much higher floor than Alexeyev, but Alexeyev was drafted in the first round for a reason. He has a relatively high ceiling, but a lower floor.

      I’d say he’s getting the defensive zone opportunities more because the front office wants to see what they have in Alexeyev. Is he a regular defenseman next season? Is he a trade chip? Those are the types of questions I expect the front office to answer here in the remaining 17 games this season.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wasted opportunity for his development this year. Should have replaced Irwin not be paired with him. Irwin drags everyone down. Hopefully he will drag down the HC.

    • KimRB says:

      I agree 100% brother, or sister!

    • Yeah, the moment that the Caps decided to sell at the deadline, Alexeyev should have been in over Irwin. I don’t exactly have faith that Laviolette will keep Alexeyev in the lineup over Irwin when Fehervary comes back, though…

  5. RYAN E BOYER says:

    Alexeyev should have been playing at least half the games since J.C. went down but P.L.’s tunnel vision got in the way, Protas should be alternating games with Mantha at least. these are the games were we showcase are young players for trades or to fine tune are needs for the free agent market.

  6. horn73 says:

    What do you coach evaluators think of PL’s right hand man and “defensive guru” Kevin McCarthy? Not a loaded question, just curious. Also curious of who do you guys want to replace PL? Like easy to ask for someone to be fired, but if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem. Quality head coaches are not easy to find….Reardon, Oates, Dale Hunter….same awful odds as a rebuild..

    Love it when no snarks Kim gets into it time and time again.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      That’s a really good question, Horn. I’m not sure I’ve formed a personal opinion on his (McCarthy”s) performance, only because I haven’t given him a lot of thought (but I need to, and starting now)

      I’m stuck on potential next coach requirements: excellent at developing young players? A seasoned vet who has won a cup because of Ovi. Arguments can be made for both sides. Having said that I really like Spencer Carbery regardless.

    • I think the bright spots for McCarthy are Jensen’s development into a shutdown, puck moving top four defenseman and the overall development of Fehervary. On the other hand, it’s hard to determine who is advocating for Matt Irwin to be in the lineup consistently with Carlson out.

      In terms of coaching next season, it’s probably time to move on from Laviolette. He’ll finish out his contract (so the Caps don’t have to pay him to not coach the team), and the Caps should look for someone that can relate to veterans and young players alike.

      Outside of Carbery, a potential coach that intrigues me is Jeff Halpern. Yes, a former Caps player, but he has played with Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Carlson and he’s been with the Lightning as a coach since 2016. He started as an AHL coach (works with the young guys) and has been with the Lightning’s NHL squad since 2018, winning two Cups in the process.

      • novafyre says:

        Carbs is my favorite. I like Halpern but he has zero head coaching experience at any level as far as I can see. I would add Gabby to the list. Might not win a Cup, but games would be fun.

        Todd Nelson is another, to me, obvious candidate. He has won the Calder Cup as HC (and player and assistant) and has NHL assistant experience, going to the Stanley Cup finals with Dallas..

        I would also add Ryan Warsofsky. He went to the ECHL Finals as HC, won the Calder Cup as assistant and head coach, and is now a 35 year old NHL assistant (San Jose).

        These aren’t proven Stanley Cup winners as Lavi is. But they have had success at many levels of pro hockey, working with developing players and changing rosters, two things that I feel Lavi has struggled with. They have taken teams to league finals and have won them.

        • KimRB says:

          Warsofsky could be on that list, but sounds like a real long shot to me. I think current Caps assistant Scott Allen, Todd Nelson, and Gabby would be higher on the list. But Warsofsky sounds like someone to keep an eye on

        • At some point, I’m not sure how much Laviolette’s Stanley Cup pedigree matters. His only cup was back in the 2005-06 season and the game has changed monumentally since then. Sure, he’s had a couple other Cup appearances, but the most recent was in 2016-17.

          To add to this point, Laviolette has gone 3-8 in the playoffs with the Caps. Reirden went 5-10. Obviously, there were roster issues like not having a proven goaltender when Reirden had Holtby, but the front office brought Lavi in to elevate the team…and that’s not quite what’s happened.

          To me, I’d rather take on a high upside coach than one of the good ol’ boys. Looking back to Cup winning coaches since 2015-16:

          2016 Cup: Mike Sullivan’s first Cup as a HC
          2017 Cup: Mike Sullivan’s second Cup as a HC
          2018 Cup: Barry Trotz’s first Cup as a HC
          2019 Cup: Craig Berube’s first Cup as a HC
          2020 Cup: Jon Cooper’s first cup as a HC
          2021 Cup: Jon Cooper’s second cup as a HC
          2022 Cup: Jared Bednar’s first cup as a HC

          Roster construction matters more than who’s coaching, but you have to have the right guy for that group behind the bench. Looking forward to seeing who that’ll be.

      • KimRB says:

        I agree with most of your post Justin

        My thoughts on the Capitals next head coach. The candidates that I see are:

        1. Bruce Boudreau. Currently unemployed, he has a wealth of NHL head coaching experience, and a winning record, and a style that would likely be suitable to a team wanting to get younger and faster

        2. Scott Allen. Current Capitals assistant coach, almost 30 years experience coaching in the minors

        3. Spencer Carbery

        4. Todd Nelson. Current Bears HC. I would have been higher on him a couple months ago, but don’t like the way they keep blowing leads

        5.Jeff Halpern. Always loved him as a player, championship pedigree with TB, should be a good teacher. Only problem is he’s never had head coaching experience

        My guess is Leonsis will go with experience. Either Allen or Gabby

    • KimRB says:

      “Love it when no snarks Kim gets into it time and time again.”

      I’m gonna sell my house now, Horny. I’m living rent free in your head. Both you and Druid.

      Can you do me favor though? Clean up your mind, it’s really dirty in here

  7. horn73 says:

    Whoa, I love all the thoughts and coaching names. I love Gabby, but do struggle with his lack of playoff success and would ideally prefer someone younger.

    Interesting that Kim’s thinks Ted would go with experience, not that I disagree necessarily, I guess I thought this was more of a GM having more influence over the HC hire, but I am likely wrong.

    My favorites in order from names provided are:


    Thanks for the great insight.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Please send this list to 627 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22203, C/o Brian MacLellan.

    • KimRB says:

      OK I’ll give you that one, Horny. BMac will make the decision on HC, but Leonsis is involved somewhere along the line. I just kind of have a vision of Leonsis as a shadow dictator, along the lines of Snyder, but not as brazen about it.

      • novafyre says:

        I agree. When it comes to coaches, Ovi, Backstrom, I think GMBM may do the day to day negotiations, but Ted calls the tune. He is the one who pays the piper after all. Not at all sure what Dick Patrick does specifically for the Caps.

  8. dwgie26 says:

    The reality of Irwin over Alexyev is purely about a veteran coach trying to win. Don’t have time to develop players. They need to win now. And Lavi is still in that position of not wanting to go out as a quitter or loser. he is a good coach. He was the right coach three years ago. But i also don’t want to hire a coach purely to develop players because that is not where we are at either.

    On Alexyev, it is common for young defensemen to focus on defense and responsiblity. Fever went more offense and was coached to calm it down and focus in on defense. AA also dealt with a lot of injuries and I believe a bit of that common Russian motivation issue. he is now looking like a young NHL defenseman. Hope he gets to play out the season. And at this point, I think GMBM should have some say

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