The Washington Capitals made a late-season trip to Pittsburgh back at the end of March and before they took on the Penguins, the team’s Russian contingent met up with Pens star Evgeni Malkin at his house for dinner.
In attendance from the Caps side of things were Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Alexeyev, and honorary Russian Aliaksei Protas.
It’s not often you get to sit down with two first-ballot hall-of-famers from your home country and enjoy a meal especially when both of them are set to do battle against one another in a few hours. Alexeyev outlined the experience to Sport24’s Daria Tuboltseva.
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“We arrived, ate deliciously, and we were received very warmly with a Russian soul,” Alexeyev told Tuboltseva and translated via Google Translate. “It was cool. It’s cool to sit with Malkin, Ovechkin, and Kuzy at the same table. I’m not particularly shy, but sometimes it happens that I’m silent.”
While it’s rare to have the sort of company Alexeyev had during this occasion, he says it’s not exactly uncommon that he catches up with his countrymen before games.
Alexeyev mentioned to Tuboltseva that he’s caught up with Columbus’ Daniil Tarasov and Vancouver’s Vasily Podkolzin and Vitali Kravtsov pregame this past year. All four players played with each other for Russia at the 2019 World Junior Championship.
Alexeyev completed his rookie season with the Caps in the 2022-23 campaign. The 23-year-old former first-round draft pick played very sparingly for the first several months of the season but eventually grabbed a regular spot in head coach Peter Laviolette’s lineup in the month of March. The Russian blueliner played over 20 minutes in a game six times in March, including a career-high, 25-minute outing against the Anaheim Ducks.
Alexeyev is still looking for his first NHL marker. Putting the puck in the net in the league is something that teammate Alex Ovechkin has done 822 times in his storied career. Tuboltseva asked Alexeyev if he’s still starstruck playing with Ovi.
“It is clear that there are flashbacks that I played with him on the (video game) console,” Alexeyev said. “But we play on the same team, we are partners. This is also worth a lot, but still sometimes it happens that you look at everything that he did and think that he is definitely in perfect order.”
As things currently stand, Alexeyev looks to be one of the Caps’ six regular defensemen heading into the 2023-24 season. He is a restricted free agent this summer so he will need a new contract at some point over the offseason.
Caps general manager Brian MacLellan commented during his Breakdown Day media availability that he may potentially add to the team’s backend either via trade or free agency but seemed more focused on addressing top-six forward needs. That could spell good news for Alexeyev.
“I think we could still improve [the defense] a little bit,” MacLellan said. “We’ll look at opportunities to do that. I like the right side, what they contributed. They all have roles they fill within our team and all do it well. The left side we have three 23-year-old guys that all look to improve and get better and get to the next level. I think it’s a pretty well-rounded group.
“I think depending on cap decisions,” he added. “To me, our main work will be in our top six forwards and then based on that we’ll see what we can do on the backend.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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