Ilya Samsonov Wants You To Know He Does Not Wear Golden Diapers

If there is one thing the Washington Capitals are great at besides breaking their fans’ hearts, it’s drafting and finding goaltenders. Since 2006, the Caps have drafted Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, Vitek Vanecek, and found Pheonix Copley as an unsigned college free agent. That’s a very impressive bunch. But the Caps might have outdone themselves with their 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov. 

Samsonov just put up the best KHL season EVER by a 19-year old goalie with an astounding 2.13 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in 27 games played. To put that into perspective with two-time Vezina-winning Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovski’s 19-year old season in the KHL: 2.91 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 24 games played. Or Varlamov’s: 2.54 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 44 games played. Or Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevsky: 2.21 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 28 games played. So as one can see, there’s a reason Samsonov is considered one of the best, if not the best, goalie currently not playing in the NHL.

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Now that you are warmed up about Samsonov, let’s see what he had to say to Daria Tuboltseva about his KHL season and his future in the NHL.

The interview starts off with some things not related to the Caps, but Tuboltseva starts to get to the point, asking what his plans are after his contract is up after the 2017-2018 season. This is where Caps fans might hold their breath, because they certainly don’t want to hear anything about re-signing in the KHL. Samsonov answered, “We do not have to make hasty decisions yet, we’ll wait and see.” So not exactly promising, but also not worth freaking out over. But then Daria asks, “It turns out, your chances to leave next year in the NHL are large enough?”, to which Samsonov replied, “It turns out, yes (laughs). I do not even know. We talked with the leadership of Washington, a positive conversation turned out. Chance, of course, there are, but it is necessary to work more, still it is the strongest league of the world. In my place, there are five more such promising people.” Hard to tell who those five players are (Holtby, Grubauer, Vanecek, Copley, someone), but still great to hear he wants to be in the best league in the world.

Perhaps the most encouraging tidbit that Samsonov mentioned, was he would not be against playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) next season if need be. “Why not [play in the AHL]. You can say there that you are not ready to play in the AHL and remain without a game practice, and this is also not good. AHL – a step down for the field, and for the goalkeepers – the same washer, all the same, it will only benefit.” The reason this is such great news, is that a lot of Russian players will not sign with their NHL team unless they can go straight to the NHL, as they feel like the AHL is beneath them. Plus, the KHL will always pay better than the AHL. This just happened recently with New York Islanders goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin, who was supposed to come over to North America for this upcoming NHL season, but re-signed in the KHL for another three years.

Tuboltseva even tries to convince Samsonov that the AHL life is not fun, because the teams travel by bus and “the conditions there are much worse than in the NHL.” She adds, “Are you ready to go to America when you have everything in Magnitogorsk?” But again, Samsonov shoots back, stating he has no problem with the AHL, “Do you think that we all got out of the golden diapers here (laughs)?” He continued, “…in general, living conditions are calm, this is part of the profession.” This is great to hear that 1) Samsonov isn’t turned off by the AHL and 2) knows hard work is part of the game.

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It’s also good to hear that Samsonov seems to be a fan of the Capitals and its players, and is excited to join them. Tuboltseva asked if it would be a dream to play with the fellow Russians like Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Orlov. He responded, “Yes. Now the guys are the NHL stars, it would be very nice to play with them. But first you have to get there and play as soon as possible.” Again, he reiterates how hard work is the way to the NHL, that’s very promising.

And of course, one can’t talk about the Capitals without talking about their playoff woes. It seems their lack of success stretches across the world. Tuboltseva asked Samsonov if he thinks the team is cursed, Ilya had other answers, “Why the curse? The guys play well, but somewhere a little is not enough. I’m not afraid of anything, anything can happen in the NHL… I’m rooting for Washington.” Good to know the Caps have another fan over in Russia.

If there is one cause for concern, it is that Samsonov had sports hernia surgery in April, which is one of the reasons he was not at the Caps’ Development Camp. But according to him, he is “nearly 100%” and should be good to go before his KHL season beings. Probably most interesting (or alarming) is that Ilya said he lost about 11 pounds over the summer! That’s a lot and could make Samsonov even quicker in the crease, which should scare opposing teams. But he does mention this in the same breath as his injury, so it could be weight just lost from being inactive and that he’ll gain it back. But still worth taking a note of.

There you have it, though it is no definite answer Samsonov will come over at the end of the 2017-2018 season, it certainly sounds like he wants too. And when he does, the Caps will have a slew of great options for goaltending. Holtby will have two years left on his deal, Grubauer will possibly be looking to start elsewhere, Vanecek may be ready to press for a backup position, and Samsonov will be getting a taste of the North American game. This will give the Caps a lot of options and maybe even the chance to ship out their great goaltenders for a big return if they feel they can do so. But keep your eyes on NoVa Caps, as we’ll have all the updates on Samsonov throughout the year should anything new transpire.

By Luke Adomanis

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8 Responses to Ilya Samsonov Wants You To Know He Does Not Wear Golden Diapers

  1. Jon Sorensen says:

    I struggle to contain my excitement for this kid.

    Like

  2. I hope to see him in Washington one day

    Like

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