Prospect Profile: Alexei Tezikov

By Jeff Charlesworth
Although Washington seems intent on icing a veteran lineup in 2000-01, there is a possibility that some rookies will be given the chance to earn a spot on the roster. Some of the names mentioned include: 1999 first-rounder Kris Beech, newly-acquired defensemen Stephen Peat and Remi Royer and 28-year old Swedish blueliner Bjorn Nord. However, the prospect with the best shot at sticking with the Capitals is Alexei Tezikov.

Tezikov was acquired at the trading deadline in March 1999 from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Joe Juneau and a switch of draft picks. The Sabres were looking to bolster their team for a run at the Stanley Cup, and figured Juneau was the missing piece. The Caps insisted on including Tezikov in the deal, as Chief Scout Ross Mahoney remembered Alexei from his days on the Buffalo scouting staff. The story of Alexei’s journey from talented nobody to the next big thing for the Capitals involves a lot of moves in a very short time.

Even though Alexei had been named the Russian Junior League’s best defenseman twice, he was not rated by Central Scouting Bureau in his draft year of 1996. The Sabres were impressed enough to select him in the 5th round (115th overall). The following season, he decided to stay in Russia and played for both Nizhny Novgorod and his hometown team of Lada Togliatti.

In 1997, he moved to North America and joined the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL). He made an immediate impact, notching 15 goals and 48 points in 60 games. He also wasn’t intimidated by his new surroundings, as he totalled 144 penalty minutes. For his troubles, he was named to the All-Rookie team, All-Star team and was the QMJHL Rookie Defenseman of the Year.

In 1998, Alexei once again started in Moncton. He picked up right where he left off, racking up 30 points in 25 games. In December of that year, he went to Finland to play for Russia’s Silver Medal-winning team at the World Junior Championships. When he returned, the Sabres greeted him with a pro contract offer. Alexei was assigned to the Sabres’ top farm club – the AHL’s Rochester Americans. He got into 31 games before he was on the move again.

Just two months after joining the Sabres organization, Alexei was dealt to the Caps. He was originally assigned to Cincinnati (IHL), but after only five games – he was recalled to Washington to finish out the year. The Capitals were playing out the string in a miserable season, and were giving tryouts to their young players (Nolan Baumgartner, Patrick Boileau, Martin Brochu). Although he played well, it was clear he wasn’t ready for the NHL yet. He was just three months removed from the junior leagues and was on his fifth team of the season.

This past season, Alexei shuttled back and forth between DC and Portland, but spent most of the year in the AHL. Although the Caps would have liked him to play full-time in the NHL, there just wasn’t any room for him. He did play in 23 games, but they were spread through five callups. Tezikov was not given an opportunity to win a job with the Caps, and was just recalled as an injury replacement.

Tezikov has the skills of an offensive defenseman, but he plays a rough style instead. Although he is a great skater and moves the puck well, he prefers to make a quick pass and then get back into his own zone. He is not the type of player to pinch in very deep, but he could – as he has the speed to outskate some forwards. Alexei is a great hip checker and also doesn’t back down from a fight.

Alexei will be an effective NHL defenseman very soon. The only thing that has kept him out so far is that he has tried to do too much when he is on the ice. The Capitals main task is to get him to relax and play within the team concept. He has shown a chemistry with fellow Russian defenseman Sergei Gonchar, and could play alongside him in 2000-01. The Capitals are attempting to clear room for him, as they want to establish some new blood on their blueline. Alexei should be able to start the season in the NHL, and once he feels comfortable – he will show his full potential.