We began our 2022-23 Washington Capitals season review with an analysis of the goaltenders earlier this week. Next up is an individual assessment of each of the Capitals defensemen for the 2022-23 season. We begin our Capitals’ blueline review with Alex Alexeyev.
Alexeyev, 23, was the Capitals first round draft pick (#31 overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’-4” left-handed defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract on September 24, 2018 for $863,333 AAV and is a restricted free agent this summer.
The Capitals announced on June 18 that Alexeyev had undergone labral repair surgery on his left shoulder and was expected to miss 4-5 months. As a result, Alexeyev missed training camp and the start of the 2022-23 season. On top of that, Alexeyev was not waivers exempt this season, which made things a little more tricky in his management.
The Hershey Bears announced on October 28 that Alexeyev had been officially loaned to the Bears on a long-term injury conditioning assignment. After four games with the Bears and the maximum allowable time for an injury conditioning assignment, the Capitals recalled Alexeyev from Hershey on November 8.
Alexeyev made his regular season debut with the Capitals the following night against Pittsburgh. He did not play again until December 3, but at that point he became a regular in the Capitals starting lineup.
2022-23 SEASON STATS
For the 2022-23 season, Alexeyev played in 32 games, had no goals and five assists and was a -2 in more than 500 minutes of ice time. The following are the season stats for Alexeyev at all strengths. [Click to enalrge].
[The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck and the NoVa Caps Advanced Analytics Model (NCAAM). If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary]
While Alexeyev’s basic possession metrics appear low, (and they are, xGF% = 41.28%), the stats include a slow start to his season. His possession stats were slowly climbing at the end of the season, as you will see in the following section. It also needs to be noted that Alexeyev saw a majority of his starts in the defensive zone, which is a sign the Capitals were testing, but trusted him in such a role.
Alexeyev’s turnover differential was poor, -13, and he took more hits than he delivered. Both stats will need to improve if he is going to find a permanent starting role. His expected goals differential was also negative, but that too was improving towards the end of the season.
Alexeyev was deployed in nine different pairings for the 2022-23 season (not including pairings with Dmitry Orlov and Erik Gustafsson). The following graph plots the performance of each pair combination (left and right side assignments), including time on ice, offensive zone faceoff percentage, expected goals differential and expected goals for percentages at five on five: [Click to enlarge].
We’ve noted in previous posts that the Alexeyev-van Riemsdyk pairing thrived this season, and was one of the best performing pairs for the Capitals, all while seeing just 27.91% offensive zone faceoffs. If Alexeyev earns a starting role on opening night you can be assured he will be paired with van Riemsdyk.
The Alexeyev-Fehervary pairing, which was first implemented during their rookie seasons in Herhsey, has not yet materialized. The Capitals gave the pairing more than 120 minutes together at five-on-five, but overall positive results have yet to be realized.
It should be noted that the two did hook-up for a good looking goal late in the season, hopefully foreshadowing things to come.
It would appear that Alexeyev’s numbers fall off quickly after his pairing numbers with van Riemsdyk, but his other pairing mate at the end of the season was Matt Irwin, when van Riemsdyk was injured) and the pair did a decent job, potentially indicating that Alexeyev’s game was gaining steam at the end of the season.
Next we can look at how Alexeyev has performed in per sixty minute rates in comparison to the league using Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM):
As Justin noted in his mid-season assessment of Alexeyev (here), 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.
Alexeyev has actually fared rather well in expected goals against per sixty (xGA/60), implying Alexeyev is a bit further along defensively than he is offensively.
We can also look at Alexeyev’s individual impact when he is on the ice via HockeyViz.
The numbers haven’t changed much since Justin’s initial assessment (here), although his offensive percentage dropped from -4% to -6%. His penalty kill comparison is somewhat impressive considering his experience and how well he did on the kill.
2023-24 SEASON FORECAST
It bears repeating that Alexeyev started the season slow, and most of his numbers were improving as the season wound down. But the question remains, have they improved enough.
The Capitals tested Alexeyev in the final third of the season, including extended time on the penalty kill and giving him a majority of defensive zone shift starts. Alexeyev answered the bell in many cases and thrived in certain situations (being paired with van Riemsdyk), but by no means did he prove 100% he should get one of the six spots to start next season. That will be decided in training camp, assuming the Capitals don’t deal him and they re-sign the restricted free agent.
The injuries remain a concern, as we have documented several times since his draft day (here). While he has suffered a serious knee injury during his time in the WHL, a majority of his significant injuries have come to both shoulders, something that needs to be considered when conducting an overall assessment. Hopefully his shoulder surgery last summer will curtail some of that.
The best role on the Capitals heading into the 2023-24 season, barring a tremendous showing in the preseason, would be to give Alexeyev the seventh defenseman role to start the season. He showed enough down the stretch to earn that as a starting point. The position would allow for his continued development and allow him to work his way into a starters role.
As for Alexeyev, he concluded his breakdown day media interview with his plans for the off-season.”Staying here!
By Jon Sorensen
“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
Staying Healthy Will Be Top Priority For Alexander Alexeyev: An Examination Of His Injuries Over The Past Three Seasons
Bears Down Thunderbirds 5-2; Alex Alexeyev, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby Score
Thunderbirds Cage Bears 5-2; Alex Alexeyev Scores Second Career AHL Goal
Capitals Prospects Weekend Update: Alex Alexeyev Scores First Professional Goal; Connor McMichael Rolls
Alexander Alexeyev Scores First Professional Goal on First Career Shift in Hershey Bears’ Game Against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Capitals’ Defensive Prospect Alexander Alexeyev Reassigned To Hershey
Capitals’ Prospect Alexander Alexeyev Skates For First Time Since Suffering Upper-Body Injury In Prospect Tournament
Capitals’ Prospect Alex Alexeyev: “The Goal Is To Make The Team”
Capitals Prospect Alex Alexeyev Goes Down With Apparent Knee Injury
Capitals Sign Alexander Alexeyev To Three-Year Entry-Level Contract
Capitals Prospect Alexander Alexeyev Scores Twice Against Calgary Hitman
Capitals Prospect Alexander Alexeyev Named WHL Player Of The Week
Capitals Prospect Alexander Alexeyev Goes Down With Apparent Knee Injury
Capitals Prospect Alexeyev Makes Defenseman Fall Down, scores Goal For Team Russia
Excellent recap of AA’s season. I agree he didn’t lock down a starting spot, but trends were positive. A little more time with TvR and he will be ready.
I kind of see it the same way. Caps tested here m and he did just enough for a new deal.
A number of Caps players (Nicky, Osh) have been very vocal about using this extended time off to get ready for training camp. We’ll see who walks the walk. If the Caps are serious and do hire new coaches who will open up training camp, create an equal playing field, then it’s up to the players to take advantage of this opportunity. They all know what they need to work on. If they come to camp prepared, I think we can have a great start to the year with new starters, new lines. If the Caps wimp out and hire Lavi v2 and sign a bunch of ‘experienced’ vets over the summer, I think some (many) of our prospects are really going to lose heart.
Agree. The summer ahead will be definitive for a number of players (including a couple in Hershey – McMichael, Malenstyn)
I like that AA can play both sides rather proficiently. That’s gonna help his case in September. I still think the left side is too young.
Let the young guys play and hopefully grow into their positions. Cant have some sitting in the rafters thinking he is learning by observation and only so much of that is needed. Play the youth and they might just surprise you and all step up. I fear that is some of the younger players get passed over by a PL@ coach they will leave asap or it will creep into their minds that they have to try harder and thus begin to make terrible mistakes. We already know what older players can do including getting hurt!
yes yes yes
Now, have the Caps management learned?
Alexeyev has size and mobility, a pretty good defensive stick and a decent first pass. What he lacks is experience. Of the Caps’ three 2018-drafted defensemen, he has played the least over the past 5 years, in large part due to injuries, then numbers. When he finally got ice time this year, he grew as a player.
Unfortunately the NHL doesn’t have an “injury waiver waiver” where a kid who has been hurt much of the time since being drafted would not have to go through waivers to play in the AHL, Because that’s really what would have benefited Alexeyev most this season — a full, injury-free season in the AHL.
He will be re-signed this summer and I believe he will win the 3rd-pair LD job next year — eventually, if not at the start of the year. Even if the Caps bring in a vet, I expect to see some rotation on the left side due to injuries and inconsistent play from both Alexeyev and Sandin. Even if they both have their ups and downs the Caps need to keep playing both of them as much as possible, since there’s just too much upside potential to give up on them.
That’s the Catch-22. Why do certain players play? Because they are better. But how do players get better? They play. Lavi just wouldn’t give our prospects the ice time that they needed to get better. Or prove that they weren’t going to. You can study and practice (and both are necessary) but all players, especially those coming back from injury, state over and over how important game time is to them. That doesn’t mean sitting in the press box or on the bench. It means actually on the ice in game situations.
“Play the kids” is an easy mantra, but that doesn’t mean they will succeed. Teaching them, letting them learn at pace provides for better success. Just throwing them in wink or swim style could be damaging.
At some point, you have to take the exam. You have to not drown in the water, you have to survive your jump out of the plane, whatever. Telling the kids that they are not ready without really, honestly, realistically testing them is not fair to them or to the Caps. If the Hershey coaches are telling them that they are ready for the next step, they need to be tested.
Wonder where he would be had he been given minutes all year instead of Irwin getting them. He and the team would be in a better place. And all that time teamed with Irwin drags down his numbers. He should be higher than 6/7 if he stays healthy. Too bad they wasted development time during a lost season.
They actually played well together.
Lots of Violent Agreement here: The upcoming Caps Head Coach must deploy and develop Baby Caps immediately. A crop of really good ones have significant experience under their shoulder pads. As a Caps “paying customer” I WANT to see these guys full-time: McMichael, Lapierre, Snively, Alexeyev, Fehervary and Protas. There are other Bears guys “knocking on the door,” and an all-out “every position is a tryout” Caps Training Camp would suit me great.
It was GRUESOMELY painful to have to watch a whole season of Eller, Mantha and especially “We know what we’re getting with Matty.”
Back to being the “paying customer:” We all follow the Caps and Bears closely and passionately. Count me as one who wants to Make A Stand with the really good home-grown ones that the Ross Mahoney Machine brought to the Caps. I found it disastrous and ugly that many of these excellent talents either “rode the pine” or got sent down under Pi$tol Pete. Pete was a class-guy, but had become a MISERABLE judge of talent and “what the franchise needs right now” to succeed.
Final detail: Give Connor Brown a contract! He is a legit NHL power forward. He merely suffered under the 2022-23 Caps Disaster season.
Connor Brown did not suffer ” under the 2022-23 Caps Disaster season” as he only played 4 games before getting hurt! So please explain how he suffered ” under the 2022-23 Caps Disaster season”?
One of many to get injured. Pretty obvious point.
Alexeyev needs the right coach to get more out of his game. His confidence level can be a problem and a good coach that instills that confidence will get the most out of him. He’s capable of a more physical game and also has a cannon for a shot but is usually afraid to use it.