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2018 NHL Draft prospect profile: Alexander Alexeyev’s all-around ability has him projected to go early

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Alexeyev is a 6'3 left-handed defender who is effective at both ends of the ice.

Red Deer Rebels v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Alexander Alexeyev is, according to most scouting services, the second-highest ranked defender out of the WHL for the 2018 draft, sitting behind only Ty Smith. Alexeyev possesses a multitude of qualities, and has been a staple of the Red Deer Rebels’ defence.

Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Shoots: Left
Position: D
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Red Deer Rebels

Alexeyev produced some interesting numbers this season: 37 points in 45 games in the regular season, making him third in the WHL in point-per-game for defencemen in his age group. The Russian born player also had a great showing in the playoffs, managing to record five points in the three games he played.

Image credit: EliteProspects

The blue-liner is lauded for his calm demeanour on the ice. Both with possession and without, Alexeyev is a towering presence from the back end who uses size to give him an edge.

He is not overly physical, even if he can hold players against the boards and try for the occasional hard hit. His reach is a great tool that enables him to control player movements in the defensive zone and poke the puck away from slippery forwards. It is hard to cut around him off the rush for this same reason.

His reads need work, and he is sometimes too focused on the puck — a more complete awareness of opponents' movement would do a great deal for his defence — but he definitely has the tools to become an effective shutdown defender. He is a good skater for his size, which is something that should help him achieve that goal.

He can use his acceleration to get to loose pucks and clear them before opposing forwards can gain control, and is agile enough to follow those same players in their twist and turns. His top speed, even if it doesn't match the speedy scorers he routinely faces, also allows him to save his team if a turnover happens high in the offensive zone.

On the breakout, Alexeyev constantly shoulder checks, and tends to make simple plays when pressured, usually rimming pucks to his wingers. But he is also able of using some misdirection to make more direct passes up to his forwards. He would gain from using his acceleration more to better separate from forecheckers before he reaches the puck, giving him more time to turn and try those passes.

With the puck on his stick and an open route out of the zone, Alexeyev showcases that he is a great puck-handler in his own way. His strength and balance make him very hard to knock off possession, and he can carry the puck through the neutral zone using a succession of subtle fakes and smooth moves, anticipating and countering defenders' reactions. He is not one to blaze through an opposing defence, but instead prefers to wait to exploit the openings that are given to him.

He also doesn't hesitate to join the attack as a third man, and can orchestrate some good plays off the rush.

He plays the same way on the point. He has a good slapshot and can one-time pucks, but if he sees an opening, he can skate up from the blue line and fire a wrister from the circles. Plus, at the top of the zone, he can be a puck distributor, moving around to exploit open passing lanes, feeding the puck to teammates through traffic, and creating some good scoring chances on the power play.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

ISS Hockey: #24
Future Considerations: #32
McKeen’s Hockey: #28
NHL Central Scouting: #22 (NA Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: #25

Thoughts

Alexeyev is an all-around solid defender. He will have to tighten his game as he won't have the same time and space at the professional level, but his numerous qualities make him useful at both ends of the ice. He likely won't be able to replicate his puck rushes in the same way in a faster-paced game, but he should still be effective from the offensive blue line.

It is expected that Alexeyev will break the point-per-game mark next season as he learns to better exploit opposing defences and be more active with the puck to create lanes for his shots.

Regarding his position at the draft, a combination of good skating and size is always hard to pass on, especially for a defender, and so the Rebels player is projected to go in one of the final selections of the first round, or possibly very early in the second. Any NHL team hoping to add to their defence prospect cupboard will look to him around those picks.