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Alexeyev hopes to join Capitals' Russian contingent next season

Defenseman prospect kept tabs on Orlov, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov during Cup run

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alexander Alexeyev already followed the Washington Capitals and their three Russia-born players, forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman Dmitry Orlov, before the Stanley Cup champions selected the native of St. Petersburg, Russia with the No. 31 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Alexeyev, a left-shot defenseman, lists Orlov as one of the players he tries to model his game after, along with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He hopes to pick Orlov's brain at training camp in September.

"I'm pretty sure I will see him," Alexeyev, 18, said during the Capitals development camp last week. "I'll ask him to give me some couple tips I think. Get to know each other."

Alexeyev spoke with Ovechkin on FaceTime the night he was drafted and joked with the Capitals captain about how his Stanley Cup celebration included playing in a fountain. Alexeyev's two-way game is similar to Orlov's, and his playful personality resembles Kuznetsov's.

Video: Capitals draft D Alexander Alexeyev No. 31

Alexeyev didn't want to speculate on whether he thinks he'll have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot with the Capitals during training camp. With five defensemen from last season already under contract (Orlov, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Christian Djoos), restricted free agent Madison Bowey likely to be re-signed and the possibility of unrestricted free agent Brooks Orpik returning, Washington probably won't have room for Alexeyev.

Alexeyev probably would benefit from another season with Red Deer in the Western Hockey League, but he's looking forward to learning all he can at training camp.

"I don't really like to talk about the future, but it is going to be fun," Alexeyev said. "I think I should work harder and every day get better and better, so we will see in September."

Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney believes Alexeyev's two seasons with Red Deer have helped him adjust to the North American game and the culture, including learning to speak English. Alexeyev led Red Deer defensemen with 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 45 games last season after he had 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 41 games the previous season.

"He's a really intelligent player, extremely patient with the puck, good shot, skates really well," Mahoney said. "I think he's going to have a really bright future with us."

Alexeyev acknowledged he has a lot of room to improve to be ready to play in the NHL. And though he's got good size at 6-foot-4, 196 pounds, he believes he needs to get stronger. He plans to travel from Russia to work out in Mission Viejo, California, to get ready for training camp at the end of the summer.

"I don't think I'm weak, but I think I need to be better in the physical part, which I'm going to try to do," he said. "So I'm pretty sure I'm going to be better for September for [training camp]."

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