When the Capitals selected Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov with the 22nd overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, many people were surprised. The Caps were already well-stocked with netminders such as Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, and Vitek Vanacek and didn’t seem to need another goalie.
Since that night, however, Samsonov has been showing why he was worth a first-round pick. Still under contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) until 2018, Samsonov still has several years until he reaches the NHL, as he is only 19-years old.
Samsonov has started off the 2016-17 season playing lights out, as he has a record of 6-0-0, to go along with a .919 save percentage and 2.26 goals-against average in 10 games played. He has allowed just 15 goals on 186 shots through 398:50 of ice time.
The strong start is nothing new to Samsonov. Last season, at the age of 18, Samsonov finished with a respectable 6-4-0 record, 2.04 GAA and two shutouts in 19 games played. While he has a ways to go before he suits up for the Caps, his play is encouraging, given that he is a teenager in the best league outside of North America. While Holtby (at just 26) has several more seasons of hockey left, the Caps may breathe easier when the time comes for Samsonov to take over, as he could be the next Russian star to don a Capitals sweater.
By Michael Fleetwood