Red Deer Rebels defenceman Alexander Alexeyev had been eagerly awaiting this week since January, 28, 2016.
That day, the Russian defenceman injured his knee in the third period of a 4-1 loss to the Regina Pats.
He underwent surgery and missed the entire season.
Back on the ice at the Centrium Wednesday, Alexeyev was finally with his teammates again.
“Had a big recovery. It was pretty hard. My agent did a good job, and I went to a few camps with pro guys so it’s really helped me to get to 100 per cent,” the six-foot-three, 200-pound defender said.
Alexeyev said he used the time last year to graduate from high school and work on his English language skills.
Rebels GM/Head Coach Brent Sutter said it was a real blow last year to lose the talented defenceman. Alexeyev was expected to fill the void left by the departure of Josh Mahura. Sutter is eager to see how Alexeyev can contribute this season.
“When you lose top players or players that are significant to your group as far that culture and their character inside the room and also on the ice, when you don’t have these types of individuals, others guys miss them. Now they’re healthy and raring to go and they’re here to help our group,” Sutter said.
The 18-year-old’s contributions will not only be vital to a Rebels run at the Central Division title this year, but also to improve his stock in the 2018 NHL Draft. Alexeyev said he’s trying not to focus too much on that, but he recognizes that this season has to be a big one.
“I was so excited to be back on the ice (Wednesday). Excited for the season it’s really important for me,” Alexeyev said.
Sutter said Alexeyev has returned with a great attitude with much improved English speaking skills.
“He’s just really eager and he knows it’s a big year for him,” he said.
In 41 games last season, the defenceman had four goals and 21 points in 41 games, but was also plus seven playing big minutes. In the 10 games before his injury, Alexeyev had nine points.
Alexeyev will be the anchor of a returning core that will be crucial to the Rebels in 2017-2018. Adding Alexeyev to the mix of Jared Freadrich, Ethan Sakowich, Brandon Schuldhaus and Carson Sass makes for an extremely reliable back end. Add young guns Dawson Barteaux and Jacob Herauf to the mix and the Rebels have all kinds of depth this season at defence.
“(Alexeyev) is a stud of a player and when you lose guys like that you don’t replace them but now we get him into our back end and we have all of them coming back except Bobyk and there’s one or two kids pushing so it’s a good thing,” Sutter said.