On Tuesday, March 23, the NHL trade deadline came and went. For Alexei Tezikov, his career with the Buffalo Sabres organization came to an end not long after it began. Tezikov had only been contracted to the Sabres since January 3, 1999. He missed half of his rookie season due to a lengthy contract dispute with management, but once he arrived in Rochester, fans and management could see he was a very talent player.
One of the reasons the Sabres played hardball with the former 1996 5th round draft pick, was that they had a glut of quality defensive prospects (Cory Sarich, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Jason Holland, Dmitri Kalinin, Brian Campbell, etc., etc.) and they knew that Tezikov, though a quality hockey player, was really not needed, so management refused to give much in the contract negotiations.
In Trading Tezikov the Sabres really don’t lose anything which they cannot replace. However, for Alexei the situation isn’t quite as a bright as he may have hoped. The reason I say this is fairly simple to understand. Washington, much like the Sabres, have a lot of quality prospects playing defense. Right now, the only real competition looks like Nolan Baumgartner. However next season, the Capitals will be bringing in three high quality players: Nick Boynton of the Ottawa 67’s (a former 1997 9th overall pick), Scott Swanson, and Jean-Francios Fortin. Another player who looks sure factor into the equation is Patrick Bolieau, who was recently called up.
Tezikov is a strong skating kid with a thick body. He plays a solid two way game, and in many ways his game is very similar to Boynton. However, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the pure skill of the two as Nick has more natural skill and he’s a tad bigger.
What seems to set Alexei apart from other player is his nasty attitude and his willingness to play a tough game, which is very much outside the norm for European player.
The one skill Tezikov without question a master of is the lost art known as hip checking. In his first AHL game, January 5th against Hamilton, Tezikov came laterally across the blueline a completely destroyed the Bulldog forward carrying the puck. The player fliped over Tezikov’s hip, doing a 180 in the air before a tough landing.
One reason Alex will have a slight edge on players like Boynton and Swanson is that he has had a year head start on learning the professional game. The NHL is a major jump from college or juniors and few player can make the direct transition. Tezikov’s half season in the AHL/IHL should prove a real benefit. Most scouts feel that Fortin will need at least a year or two in the minors to fine tune his game. Swanson, who seems like the most offensive gifted of the prospects, may be able to jump to the NHL straight out of college, but that is often a difficult leap. Boynton will likely be seasoned in the minors, unless he shows he is ready during training camp, because the Caps have invested a lot in him.
That should leave Baumgartner, Tezikov and Bolieau to battle for what looks like two potential roster spots.
All in all, though Tezikov faced a tough up hill battle, in the long run, this may help him. Competition often brings out the best in a player, and a player with his solid skills and positive attitude should do well.
Alexei may never become an all-star. and he certainly won’t ever be a superstar, but remember this kid’s name, especially if your a Capitals fans, because he will play in the NHL, and likely in the very near future.