Capitals goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov is arguably, one of, if not the, best netminding prospects in hockey and despite a season in which he has struggled, the former first-round pick earned a win against CSKA Moscow in his first game in nearly a month.
On December 21, 2017, Metallurg Magnitogorsk traveled to Moscow to play CSKA. The last time the two teams faced each other was in October, a game CSKA clobbered Metallurg by a score of 7-2, setting the table for Metallurg to enact their revenge in what would hopefully be a victory.
However, the job would be tough, as the “Army Men” of CSKA had a 12-game winning streak coming into the game. The goalies for each team were both young and shared a first name, with Ilya Sorokin (born August 4, 1995) in net for CSKA, and Samsonov (born February 22, 1997) in net for Metallurg. This was the first game Samsonov had played for Metallurg Magnitogorsk since November 22, a timeframe of nearly a month between appearances.
The game did not start off well for Metallurg, as CSKA’s Kirill Petrov opened the scoring at the 5:15 mark of the first period. However, things improved for during the second period. With Metallurg on the power play, Wojtek Wolski scored the game-tying goal at the 7:53 mark, with assists from Sergei Mozyakin and Jan Koval. Wolski, who played with the Capitals during the 2012-13 season, had left Magnitogorsk and signed with the Kunlun Red Stars, but had returned in a trade on December 14. Metallurg then pulled ahead 2-1, with less than four minutes left in the period.
Despite CSKA dominating the third period in possession (16 shots to Metallurg mustering only four), the score remained 2-1 until CSKA pulled their goalie with 1:20 left to go in regulation. Oskar Osala, who played with the Caps briefly in the 2007-08 season, scored an empty-net goal at the 59:22 mark. Evgeny Timkin scored another empty-netter at 59:48, with assists from Osala and Nikita Sirotkin, sealing up a 4-1 Metallurg victory and subsequently snapping CSKA’s 12-game winning streak.
In this game, Samsonov had 34 saves on 35 shots, for a phenomenal save percentage of .971, which brings his save percentage for the season to .914 and his goals-against average to 2.74. For Samsonov, who is expected to sign his entry-level contract with the Capitals in the offseason after meeting with Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan a few weeks ago, this game has to be an encouraging sign that his rough start to the season was simply an anomaly.
Leaving for the NHL?
In an interview with Championat, the vice-president of Magnitogorsk Metallurg (Samsonov’s current KHL team) Gennady Velichkin, spoke about the situation with goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov.
“This is our guy, he wants to play, we were ready to sign a contract with him, and he was ready. His agent, Igor Larionov, is a complex person, albeit a good one. He proposed unacceptable conditions for us, and we decided that we will act according to the rules”. Velichkin continued, “If he has an option to go to the NHL, then for God’s sake, we are honoring him. We are proud of Ilya”.
By Diane Doyle