We continue our prospect review and forecast series with a review and forecast for goaltender Ilya Samsonov. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page on the top menu or right here.)
Ilya Samsonov is a 22-year-old goalie who has primarily played in the KHL with Metallurg and the AHL with the Hershey Bears. He stands 6’-3” and weighs 201 pounds. The Magnitogorsk, Russia native was drafted in the first round (#22 overall) by the Capitals in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Samsonov signed a three-year entry-level contract on May 3, 2018, for $925,000 average annual value (AAV). Samsonov will be a restricted free agent on July 1, 2022.
Prior to being drafted, Samsonov played one season with Stalnye Lisy (Steel Foxes), the junior ice hockey team affiliated with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. He began the next season (2015-16), with Stalnye Lisy but was recalled to Metallurg to serve as the backup to KHL All-Star goalie, Vasily Koshechkin.
Samsonov remained with Magnitogorsk for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. For his KHL career, he played in 73 games, winning 33, losing 16 in regulation and nine overtime losses during the regular season, with a save percentage of .929, with 1587 saves on 1709 shots. He played in 14 playoff games, finishing with a record of 4-4; his final career playoff save percentage was .920, as he saved 240 of the 261 shots faced. Metallurg Magnitogorsk, won the Gagarin Cup in 2016, and were the runner-up in the Gagarin Cup Finals in 2017. He participated in the World Junior Championships in both 2016 and 2017, helping Russia earn a Silver Medal in 2016 and a Bronze Medal in 2017.
Samsonov then signed an entry-level deal with the Capitals and was assigned to the Hershey Bears. He played in 37 regular season games for the Bears during the 2018-19 season and had a 2.70 GAA and a save percentage of .898 and a 20-14-2-3 record. For the playoffs, he played in 5 games and posted a 2-3 record, a 2.99 GAA and a save percentage of .299.
2018-2019 SEASON SUMMARY
Samsonov played in 37 games during the 2018-19 season and had a 2.70 GAA, a save percentage of .898 and a 20-14-2-3 record. He was part of a goalie tandem with fellow prospect, Vitek Vanecek. He and Vitek Vanecek both did well in 2019 when the Bears rebounded to make the playoffs after a terrible start which found them in last place in their division around New Year’s.
This season was a tale of two seasons for Samsonov. From October through December, he was 5-10-0 with a 3.88 GAA and a .863 save percentage on the season. He was much better starting in January. While he lost his first game that month, he took fire after that. Since recording his first shutout on Jan. 12, he posted a 15-3-2-1 record with a 1.78 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. His final record was 20-14-2-3.
2018-2018 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Ilya Samsonov during the 2018-2019 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
After an impressive prospect tournament and training camp, Samsonov made his North American professional debut for the Bears on October 6 and took a 3-2 loss. Besides the loss, Samsonov looked fairly comfortable, making several really nice saves, stopping 28 of 31 shots. However, Samsonov would start the season 0-3-0 with a 4.04 Goals-against Average and a .859 save percentage before sustaining a minor injury in practice on October 18. The Bears and Vitek Vanecek would win three straight road games in Samsonov’s absence. Vanecek played well and was named Player of the Week, but in Samsonov’s defense, the team also seemed to settle down a bit on offense and special teams after the dreadful 0-5-0 start. Samsonov would return as a starter on October 27 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, a game in which he would stop 18 of 21 shots to secure his first AHL victory (here). Samsonov finished the month of October with a record of 1-3-0, with a 3.70 goals-against average and a .860 save percentage.
Samsonov’s month of November was a month of inconsistencies. He began November with an impressive win over the Americans in Rochester, stopping 34 of 36 shots in the 4-2 Bears win. The following night was less impressive, as he stopped 30 of 34 in a 4-1 loss against the Americans in Hershey. In his following start, Samsonov would shine in a 3-2 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds, in which he stopped 31 of 33 shots (here). The up and down month would continue in his following start, in which he gave up seven goals against the Syracuse Crunch on November 11. Samsonov was recalled by Washington on November 16, to back up Pheonix Copley, after Braden Holtby sustained an upper-body injury. (Vanecek was injured, leaving Samsonov the only real choice for the recall.) Samsonov was re-assigned to the Bears on November 19 (here). Samsonov would start his next game against the Phantoms on November 23 and give up six goals. He would start the final game of November against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and would give up three goals on 29 shots faced. Samsonov is 3-7-0, with a 3.88 GAA and a .869 save percentage in 10 games played so far this season. Samsonov needs consistent playing time in the month of December. However, with Vanecek’s excellent play as of late, it will be a challenge.
Samsonov started the month of December in goal for the Bears against Springfield on the 1st. He gave up four goals on 18 shots faced for a .778 save percentage. However, Samsonov would respond with a good game in his following start against Hartford on December 8, giving up three goals on 31 shots faced for a .903 save percentage. In Samsonov’s next start on December 15 in Providence, he gave up five goals on 23 shots faced for a .783 save percentage for the game. It should be noted that at this point of the month, the Bears’ defensive corps was dealing with significant injuries and call-ups. (Lewington was recalled by the Caps earlier in the week.) Samsonov’s next start was a rough one, giving up six goals on 30 shots faced for an .800 save percentage against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on December 22. It was clear in this game that the Phantoms were pounding Samsonov glove side, which has been an issue in the past. He also appeared to be playing a bit too deep in the crease, but was relatively quiet with his side-to-side movement (an improvement). Samsonov was much better in his final game of the month, stopping 22 of 23 shots faced for a 2-1 win over the Providence Bruins. Samsonov is 5-10-0 with a 3.88 GAA and a .863 save percentage on the season.
Samsonov changed his sweater number (from No. 1 to No. 35) near the beginning of the month, indicating he felt wearing No. 1 was not good luck for him. He may have been right, as January was a much better month for the highly-touted prospect. Samsonov started the month giving up three goals on 18 shots he faced against Milwaukee, and then gave up two goals on 12 shots in a relief appearance against Springfield on January 11. Samsonov then pitched back-to-back shutouts in his next two starts, starting the following night against Lehigh Valley on January 12 (his first career AHL shutout) and against Binghamton on January 16. Samsonov’s next start would come against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on January 19. He would give up three goals on 25 shots for the win. Samsonov would win his fourth straight game against Bridgeport on January 21, giving up just one goal on 21 shots faced. Samsonov started a fifth-straight game for the Bears on January 23 at Lehigh Valley, where he stopped 25 of 26 shots he faced in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Phantoms. For the month of January, Samsonov started six games and relieved Vitek Vanecek in one game, giving up a total 10 goals on 136 shots faced, for a .926 save percentage for the month. For the season, Samsonov is 9-11-1-2 with a 3.14 Goals-Against Average and a .878 save percentage.
Samsonov continued his high level of play from January. He was a perfect 6-0-0-0 for the month of February and had a 1.47 Goals-Against Average for the month. He stopped 21 of 22 shots at home against Lehigh Valley in his first game of the month on February 2. He stopped 35 of 37 against the Thunderbirds in Springfield in February 6. (At this point, Samsonov and Vanecek were alternating games on a regular basis.) In his next start, Samsonov stopped 29 of 30 shots against the Charlotte Checkers at Giant Center on February 10. For his first three games of the month, he stopped 85 of 89 shots faced for an eye-popping .955 save percentage. Samsonov’s fourth start of the month came at home against Lehigh Valley on February 16, and once again, was strong, stopping 28 of 30 for a .933 game save percentage. His next start was on February 23 at home against Rockford, in which he stopped 21 of 23 shots for a .913 game save percentage. The win also extended the Bears’ winning streak to 11 games and extended the Bears’ points-streak to 17 games. In his final outing of the month in Hartford, Samsonov stopped 28 of 29 shots faced for a .966 game save percentage. For the month of February, Samsonov played in six games and gave up nine goals on 141 shots faced for a .940 save percentage. For the season, Samsonov is 15-11-1-2 with a 2.77 GAA and a .895 save percentage. There is a good chance Samsonov will be selected AHL Goaltender of the Month for February. After struggling at the start of the season, Samsonov looks much more comfortable in the crease, and has been solid in pre-positioning for shots. His athleticism has also been on full display as of late, particularly during recent shootout games in which he seemed to make all the stops with relative ease. He still makes the occasional overreaction, but even that has quieted down tremendously. The question at this point is whether Samsonov will spend another full season in Hershey, or whether the Capitals need to start thinking about working him into the mix at the NHL.
Ilya Samsonov played in six games during the month of March. He posted a 3-2-1 record for the month. He made 149 saves on 165 shots in that time frame, including two games (3/16 and 3/30) in which he posted save percentages of over .940, giving up just one goal in each of them. He had one game (3/2) with a save percentage of .824, in which he did not face a huge number of shots. In the other three games, his save percentage fell between .880 and .900, which included one game in which he was beleaguered with 37 shots. March was a month in which, based on save percentage alone, he was very good or relatively mediocre. Overall, he was good enough to keep the team in games. Samsonov is now 18-13-2-2 on the season, with a Goals-Against Average of 2.76 and Save Percentage of .896, creeping closer to breaking the .900 barrier.
Samsonov played in three games for the remainder of the regular season, winning 2 and losing 1. He made 66 saves in 72 chances for a save percentage of .916 for the month. For the regular season, his record was 20-14-2-3. His save percentage for the regular season ended up at .898 with a Goals Against Average of 2.70.
For the playoffs, he performed very well in the first round, losing his first game in overtime when making close to 50 save but winning the next two, including the game that clinched their second round berth. He gave up 6 goals during the series. winning a shutout and losing the second game. He gave up just three goals in that round. The second round was not so good, as he lost two games as the Bears were swept in Round 2. His statistics weren’t great but the Bears defense had not played well. His statistics were especially marred by a brutal third period in his first game against Charlotte.
Samsonov will likely remain in Hershey for the 2019-20 season as one of their two goalies and looks to still alternate in goal with Vitek Vanecek. With Braden Holtby’s contract expiring after the 2019-20 season, the plan is for both Samsonov and Vanecek to get playing time in Washington in preparation for the possible departure of Holtby. The likely long term prognosis is for Samsonov to end up as a #1 goalie, possibly even eventually taking Holtby’s job.
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Ilya Samsonov – First 24 Games in North America: Adaptation, Education and Sticking To The Script
Ilya Samsonov Earns First AHL Shutout in Hershey Bears 3-0 Win over Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Photos)
Hershey Bears Thump Springfield Thunderbirds 4-2; Ilya Samsonov Once Again Strong In Goal
Hershey Bears Beat The Binghamton Devils 1-0 in Overtime; Ilya Samsonov Records Second Consecutive Shutout
Ilya Samsonov — Review and Forecast for 2018-19 Season
By Diane Doyle