Alexeyev almost guaranteed of being picked in first two rounds of 2018 NHL entry draft

Photo by Rob Wallator

Late Friday or early Saturday.

It’s more than likely that Alexander Alexeyev will realize a lifelong dream during one of those time frames.

The Red Deer Rebels defenceman is projected as a late first-round or an early second-round selection in this year’s NHL entry draft in Dallas.

The Russian rearguard may have been a sure fire first-round pick if he hadn’t missed a chunk of each of the last two seasons — his first two in the Western Hockey League — due to injuries and personal issues.

After sitting out the final two months of his 2016-17 rookie campaign with a lower body injury that required surgery, Alexeyev was absent for more than three weeks following the death of his mother earlier this year. Then, shortly after returning from Russia, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the final month of the regular season.

“For sure, whenever you miss time, especially down the stretch, it hurts you some,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Thursday, in reference to Alexeyev’s draft status.

“He didn’t play a lot of hockey from January on due to the passing of his mom. And when he came back he was only back for half a dozen games and he got hurt and was out of the last month of the (regular) season and the first couple of playoff games.”

That being said, Sutter is confident that NHL teams are fully aware of what the six-foot-three, 200-pound defender brings to the table, which is a strong two-way game and the ability to log heavy minutes.

“Alex is who Alex is,” said Sutter. “He’s the type of guy who when you come and watch him play you can clearly see what kind of player and what kind of horse he is.”

The Rebels have five players included in Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters for the 2017-18 season, with Alexeyev ranked 22nd and forward Kristian Reichel listed at No. 53.

From there, defenceman Dawson Barteaux comes in at No. 133 and forward Chris Douglas and blueliner Jacob Herauf are ranked 168th and 188th respectively.

Reichel is expected to be selected anywhere from the fourth to sixth rounds while the status for the other three is unknown. Forwards Jeff de Wit and Austin Pratt, for example, were ranked by Central Scouting but were both passed over in the 2017 NHL draft.

“Who knows? We’ve had a couple of other guys get passed on in the last year or two,” said Sutter. “It’s kind of an unknown.”

Alexeyev will celebrate his 19th birthday in November and almost certainly will be back with the Rebels this fall, while Reichel turned 20 earlier this month and therefore is eligible to play pro next season.

The Czech centre, who sniped 34 goals in 63 regular-season games last winter and had five points, including three goals, in five playoff outings, would count as a two-spotter — an overage and import player — if he returned to the Rebels, but Sutter would welcome him back.

“Right now we’re making plans that he’s not going to be with us, but you never know,” said the Rebels boss. “If an NHL team drafts him and they want him playing major junior hockey instead of in the American Hockey League or playing pro in Europe next season, then they’ll inform us at that time.

“But until then we have to make plans like he’s not going to be back.”

Regardless, the Rebels will make one selection in next Wednesday’s CHL import draft, almost certainly a forward.

° The Rebels will open their 2018 preseason schedule by hosting a four-team tournament Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the Centrium.

Red Deer will play the Edmonton Oil Kings on the first day and the Calgary Hitmen on the second day. The Kootenay Ice will also compete in the tournament.

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