Alex Ovechkin’s Advice For Aliaksei Protas: “Be Bolder”

Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

I’ve had the pleasure of tracking Aliaksei Protas’ development on a day-to-day basis since his draft day back in 2019. The four-year effort has included his time with the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL, where we first interviewed “The Viper”. I also had the extreme pleasure of getting to know Aliaksei’s billet family in Prince Albert, who are wonderful people and remain a huge part of Protas’ hockey journey.

The last four years has also included day-to-day tracking of Protas’ time with Dynamo Minsk in the KHL. It was during this time I began to get a better understanding Protas’ game and how cerebral he is as a person. A fond memory for me that season was seeing Dynamo social media posts from the team plane detailing a wide array of shenanigans going on. Off to the side was Protas, with his head buried in a heady book, seemingly oblivious to all of the noise around him.

The last four years has taught me a lot about Protas as a hockey player, as well as a person.  I’m not overstating this when I say he could be the nicest kid in the Capitals organization. Quiet, sharp and respectful, his parents did a great job raising him. (and I include his billet parents in Prince Albert in this, although they will tell you it’s all Aliaksei).

But could Aliaksei be too nice?

During his season in the KHL I began to notice a glaring anomaly in his games stats. There were no recorded hits by Protas. Zero. None. Sometimes the hitless streak would go for several games or even weeks at a time. However, it wasn’t too surprising, as it lined up with his personal demeanor. Protas was not an aggressive person and not an aggressive player with regards to initiating physical contact in the game of hockey.

That assessment is now more widely known, including by Protas himself, who knows he needs to be more agressive and find a bit of “junkyard dog” in his game. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin relayed similar advice in a recent conversation between the two.

“There was a moment when the two of us stayed to talk. We started talking about hockey. He said I should be more cheeky, bolder with my character,” said Protas in a recent interview with media in Belarus. “It’s not that I’m shy…but I realize now that it may have prevented me from establishing myself somewhere. Listening to Ovechkin, you trust him, believe his words, because if you look at his first game in the NHL, Sasha simply “killed” the man on board in his first shift. And scored twice. And you realize that you really need to be more daring if you want to reach your dreams. There is nothing to be afraid of.”

The advice to be more physical in his game can come from a wide array of coaches, players and mentors, but when it comes from the Great 8, it registers. There is no better evaluator. Protas said he has taken Ovechkin’s advice to heart.

“Now I already understand that there is no other way, it will not work in any other way. I understood that somewhere my psychology in games failed me. Could have been bolder, more impudent. But you really need to see it. A lot can be said with words. It will be seen.”

In Protas’ defense, there has already been a noticeable uptick in his physical play last season and in the postseason with the Hershey Bears. I even saw him get pissed off on more than one occasion. More aggressiveness is needed from the 22-year-old, but I fully believe it will come and come very soon. That’s his perfect player profile, and Protas knows it.

A 6’-6” Belarusian with an attitude and a bit of “junkyard dog” in him would be a very scary site for opponents.

By Jon Sorensen


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Aliaksei Protas’ Billet Family “Cried” When He Called To Tell Them He Made The Capitals Opening Night Roster
How Aliaksei Protas Capitalized On A Rare Opportunity During The Covid Pandemic
Aliaksei Protas Nearly Gave Up On Hockey Following First Trip To North America At Age 14

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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8 Responses to Alex Ovechkin’s Advice For Aliaksei Protas: “Be Bolder”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I would love to see Pro get nasty.

    • AJ says:

      I noticed it more last season as well
      He finished more checks and leaned harder on his man

      Mantha, you 6ft5 powderpuff, ya takin notes?!

  2. hockeydruid says:

    I always viewed his personality as like that of Backy; calm and easy going until you get him riled then watch out. When he gets to DC he will get the coaching from not only the staff but the other players to add weight in a good way, strength and how and when the hit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Still just 22. It will come.

  4. redLitYogi says:

    He’s still filling out that big frame. I’d like to see that boldness also be about his willingness to create and shoot the puck without being obsessed with avoiding mistakes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unleash the Viper!

  6. dwgie26 says:

    What i really love here is that it sounds like he is hearing the message and trying to amp that up a bit. At 22, that will still take some time to fully develop and it doesn’t need to all happen at once.

    Said it before, but i would really like to see him get significant top 9 minutes this year.

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