April 4, 2018 will go down as one of the biggest days in Alexander Chmelevski’s career. Just hours after signing his entry level contract with the Sharks, Chmelevski began his pro hockey career by deking San Diego Gulls goaltender Kevin Boyle and scoring his first American Hockey League goal as a member of the Barracuda.
The Huntington Beach native suited up nine more times for the ‘Cuda, putting up 4 points in six regular season games and adding 2 points in the playoffs. This all came on the heels of a career season in the Ontario Hockey League, leading the Ottawa 67s in all three scoring categories with 35 goals, 41 assists and 76 points in 2017-18.
For a guy drafted in the sixth round in 2017, Chmelevski has upped his prospect stock quite a bit in the last year. His work in the defensive end has improved, with his goals for percentage going from 41.98 percent in 2016-17 to 51.08 percent last season. He also became the 67s go-to center, taking an additional 224 faceoffs all while taking his faceoff percentage from 0.553 percent to 0.562 percent.
Though his AHL numbers are plenty encouraging, expectations must be tempered. Small sample sizes tend to do him well — ten games with the Barracuda, and before that, tournament play with team USA showed the best of Chmelevski. His last season in Ottawa was a career best, jumping from .56 points per game in 2016 to .74 in 2017 and again to 1.12 in 2018. But according to Emmanuel Perry’s NHLe model, Chmelevski would retain just .16 of that scoring rate were he to play in the NHL this season, putting him on pace for14.66 points.
A factor in his scoring rate is that over the last two seasons nearly half of his assists are secondary assists, which are generally eliminated in most statistical models. While his affect on team scoring rates (per Evan Oppenheimer’s betweenness measurement) has risen over the last three years, it’s still fairly unremarkable in all situations at .0351 and sees a massive boost on the power play, jumping to .1283.
Still, Perry’s model rates Chmelevski fairly well among Sharks prospects. His projected WAR/82 is .36 and ranks 30th of the 86 forwards drafted in 2017 who are currently younger than 20 years old and have not yet played in the NHL.
Despite ending his season with the Barracuda on an amateur tryout, Chmelevski will have to wait another season before suiting up in teal again. At 19 years old, the Sharks will have to send Sasha back to the 67s this season and after being the piece to bring them into playoffs, the Cuda will certainly miss his presence.
With his impressive stats in Ottawa last season, it’s worth wondering if he’s proved all he can at the junior level. He may return to San Jose on another ATO in April or May, but until Ottawa’s season ends Chmelevski’s eyes will be on the CHL prize: the Memorial Cup.
What we like
When Chmelevski has the puck, he’s the most dangerous player on the ice. His quick thinking and reaction speed turns defenders and goalies inside out on a regular basis. Puck possession has never been more important in the game, and Sasha’s goals for percentage shows he can be a great asset in that department.
Also, his name is phenomenal.
Areas of improvement
While Chmelevski became less of a defensive liability last season, his play in his own end is still a work in progress. If he’s able to earn some additional ice time in defensive scenarios during his final junior season, he could return to the AHL a polished gem.
In February, the Owen Sound Attack held a 3-2 lead on the 67s in the third period. But they made one crucial mistake; they forgot to contain Sasha.