Hearing "The Washington Capitals” and “Alexander” in the same sentence, has for the last few seasons conjured up “the Great 8” Ovechkin for hockey fans. This year, however, a new Alexander has finally arrived in downtown DC. Yes, that’s right, Alexander Semin, #28, is finally producing the way all the scouts thought he could, and he is getting noticed.
Semin, born in Krasjonarsk, USSR on March 3, 1984, was drafted in the first round (13th overall) by the Caps in 2002. Since his arrival, Semin has had up-and-down seasons. Some of his struggles have been due to injuries, most recently last season battling an early season ankle injury.
Semin joined the Caps in the 2003-04 season. In his inaugural campaign, he played in fifty-two games and registered ten goals and twelve assists. Given the state of the organization during that season—with the rebuilding process in full swing, he had a respectable year. The fans had hoped to see more the next year, but instead were treated to the lockout. Semin played in his native Russia during that season, performing admirably for Lada Togliatti. He also used his time off from the NHL to begin his mandatory two years of Russian military service. He subsequently missed the 2005-06 campaign to finish his military service, while continuing to play in Russia. He did not report to Caps training camp that season and was suspended by the Caps for his actions.
Semin returned to the NHL and the Caps for the 2006-07 season, signing a two-year deal. He played in seventy-seven games, recording thirty-eight goals and thirty-five assists. Even with all his points Semin remained a minus player (-7), showing that his defensive game still needed work. He received criticism for his subpar defensive play and what appeared to be a lackadaisical attitude. Semin was often guilty of taking bad penalties at untimely points during games that season amassing 90 minutes in penalties.
Early last season, Semin battled an ankle injury, causing him to play only sixty-three of eighty-two Caps games. He recorded twenty-six goals and sixteen assists, but remained a defensive liability as a (-18) player. The arrival of Sergei Federov late in the season appeared, however, to bolster Semin as an NHL’er. Late last season, Federov and Semin often played on the same line, and the fans in DC saw improvement in Semin’s defensive play. Many of the young players on the Caps, especially Semin and Ovechkin, credit Federov’s presence for their late last season and off season maturation as hockey players.
Now it’s the 08-09 season, and Semin is healthy. Not only healthy, he appears faster and stronger than any season before. On countless occasions this season, Semin has amazed fans with beautiful moves that most in DC associate with Ovechkin. In a mere five games this year, Semin already boasts six goals and four assists, while being +6-player with two penalty minutes. This outstanding performance is not surprising as much as welcome: there is no analyst or scout out there who ever thought Semin couldn’t be the great player he has been so far season.
Ovechkin, last year scoring sixty-five goals, has most teams pairing their best defensive units against him, leaving Semin and his line mates much more room to maneuver and make plays. The end result so far has been exactly that, Semin and his line have been sensational. There is no reason to believe that Semin can’t score fifty or more goals this season.
The plus 6 rating for Semin this year shows his defensive positioning and defensive awareness are much better than in years past. He has also avoided the bad penalty that has plagued him in years past. Coach Boudreau has taken notice, placing Semin on the penalty kill early this season for the Capitals.
Semin is on a torrent pace to start the season and as long as he can stay healthy he should have his best year yet. Fifty or even sixty goals are not out of the question for Semin, he has the talent to do it. Could Semin be the most talented player on the Caps team?