Before the 2019-20 season, it was evident that there was a new wave of young Russian-born goaltenders who would soon be having an impact in the National Hockey League, with many of them expected to soon populate the Metropolitan Division (note that divisions have been re-aligned, at least for 2020-21, due to the coronavirus pandemic). With the 56-game 2020-21 season just around the corner, many of those young netminders have already established roles in the NHL or are on the cusp of doing so.
NoVa Caps took a detailed examination of these Russian goalies just before the 2019-20 season, following their progress from the time they were drafted, through their performance at the World Junior Championships, and their progress since being drafted. Some of these goalies have already earned a role at the NHL level or are about to do so with their respective teams, while others may still be a few years away. Some of the Metropolitan Division teams (the Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets) will not be in the same division with the Washington Capitals this season, but there will still be updates on their goaltending prospects for continuation purposes. Additionally, another young Russian goalie has emerged in development since then, even though he was not drafted by a team in the Metropolitan Division.
Alexandar Georgiev – Georgiev was never drafted, but signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Rangers before the 2017-18 season. He was the first of this new wave of Russian goalies to play in the NHL, seeing time with the Blueshirts during the 2018-19 season, with the 2019-20 season being his first full season in the NHL. Last season, Georgiev played in 34 games (starting 32), most among the New York Rangers’ goaltending corps. He finished the 2019-20 season with a 17-14-2 record, a Save Percentage of .910, and a Goals-Against Average of 3.04. He is expected to be part of a goalie tandem with fellow young netminder Igor Shestyorkin.
Mary Altaffer/New York Times
Igor Shestyorkin – The New York Rangers drafted Shestyorkin in the fourth-round (118th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and the young Russian netminder played his first season in North America in 2019-20. The former fourth-round pick started off the season with the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack, posting a 17-4-5 record to go along with a Save Percentage of .934 and a Goals-Against Average of 1.90. The Rangers recalled Shestyorkin on January 6, 2020, and he proceeded to play in 12 games, posting a record of 10-2-0 with a Save Percentage of .932 and a Goals-Against Average of 2.52. Shestyorkin was deemed “unfit to play” the first two games of the Rangers’ play-in series against the Carolina Hurricanes due to a groin injury. When he returned for the third playoff game, he gave up three goals in an elimination loss to Carolina. He and Georgiev will be part of a goalie tandem for the Rangers this season after the departure of longtime Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist in free agency. While he is likely to be their Number One goalie, the role is not guaranteed; Shestyorkin will most likely be the Rangers’ starter on Opening Night.
Ilya Samsonov – The Washington Capitals drafted Samsonov in the first-round (22nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. After training camp in 2019 (for the 2019-20 season), it was announced that Samsonov would be the backup to longtime starting goalie Braden Holtby. After spending the 2018-19 season with the Caps’ AHL affiliate in Hershey, Samsonov spent the entire 2019-20 season with the Capitals; in 26 games (22 starts), the young netminder posted a 16-6-2 record, with a Save Percentage of .913, and Goals-Against Average of 2.55. Samsonov was unable to play in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the isolated bubble in the hub cities (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), as he injured his neck and shoulder in an ATV accident in Russia. After spending the summer and fall rehabilitating, he seems to have recovered and looks to take the reins as the team’s number one goalie after Holtby’s departure in free agency.
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Ilya Sorokin – The New York Islanders drafted Sorokin in the third-round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and the 78th overall pick in 2014 played the entire 2019-20 season with CSKA Moscow. In 40 games, Sorokin posted a record of 26-10-3, with a Save Percentage of .935, and a Goals-Against Average of 1.50. Sorokin, who has signed a contract with the Islanders, did not play in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but spent time with the team in the bubble. In 2020-21, he is expected to share time with veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Daniil Tarasov – The Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Tarasov in the third-round (86th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and the soon-to-be (March 2021) 22-year old netminder spent the 2019-20 season with Assat of the Finnish League. Tarasov played in 41 games and posted a 11-17-9 record, with a Save Percentage of .899 and a Goals-Against Average of 2.72. For the 2020-21 season, he has been lent to Salavat Yulaev UFA, but has also spent time with their VHL affiliate. Tarasov has played five games with Toros Neftekamsk, posting a 3-1-1 record, a Save Percentage of .909, and a Goals-Against Average of 2.16. In nine games for Salavat Yulaev UFA, he holds a 5-3-1 record with a .933 Save Percentage, and a Goals-Against Average of 1.89. Tarasov appears to be serving in a backup role for Salavat Yulaev UFA, and was sent to Toros Neftekamsk when he required playing time (one instance being when the Kontinental Hockey League would break for a tournament). Tarasov is still likely a few years away from playing with the Blue Jackets.
Kirill Ustimenko – The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Kirill Ustimenko in the third-round (80th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. During the 2019-20 season, he played with both the Reading Royals (the Flyers’ East Coast Hockey League affiliate), and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the team’s AHL affiliate, spending most of his time with Reading. In 31 games with Reading, Ustimenko posted a 19-4-5 record, with a Save Percentage of .919 and a Goals-Against Average of 2.40. For the Phantoms, he posted a 1-3-2 record, a Save Percentage of .889, and a Goals-Against Average of 3.84. For his play with Reading, Ustimenko was named the ECHL Goalie of the Month for January 2020. The Flyers regarded him as a good enough prospect to trade away his fellow goaltender J.F. Berube, who had been the Phantoms’ primary goalie for most of the 2019-20 season. This season, Ustimenko was lent to HK Gomel, a hockey team in the Belarusian Extraleague A in his native Belarus. With Gomel, he has played in two games, recording a Save Percentage of .910, and a Goals-Against Average of 2.50.
Ivan Fedotov — The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Fedotov in the seventh-round (188th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Despite this, the young netminder has yet to sign a contract with the team. For the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Fedotov primarily played with Traktor Chelyabinsk, but has occasionally appeared with their VHL affiliate Chelmet Chelyabinsk. In 2019-20, he posted a record of 10-16-2 in 32 games, with a Save Percentage of .931, and a Goals-Against Average of 2.10. He appeared in three games with Chelmet Chelyabinsk and posted a 1-2-0 record. In 2020-21, he has played in 17 games with Traktor and posted a 9-5-1 record, with a Save Percentage of .916, and a Goals-Against Average of 2.29; additionally, he played in one game with Chelmet Chelyabinsk and lost.
Pyotr Kochetkov – The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Kochetkov in the second-round (36th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, and the young goaltender has yet to sign a contract with the team. Over the last two seasons, the young netminder found trouble getting playing time in the KHL. He began the 2019-20 season with SKA St. Petersburg, playing in six games before getting traded to Vityaz Podolsk, where he played in just eight games. In addition, he also played for the VHL affiliates of both SKA and Vityaz. During 2020-21, he started the season with Vityaz Podolsk and played four games before being traded to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.
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During the past season, another Russian goalie prosect emerged in Yaroslav Askarov, who the Nashville Predators drafted in the first-round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft with the 11th overall pick. Since the draft, he has played with SKA St. Petersburg and their affiliate SKA-Neva St. Petersburg. In seven games with SKA St. Petersburg, Askarov posted a record of 4-3-0, with a Save Percentage of .962, and a Goals Against Average of 0.96. In two games with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, he posted a record of 0-2, with a Save Percentage of .900, and Goals-Against Average of 2.52. He represented Team Russia in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, playing in six games and posting a 3-3 record, Save Percentage of .914, and Goals-Against Average of 2.50; Russia lost to Canada in the Semi-Final Round and lost in the Bronze Medal game to Finland.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 5, 2021
By Diane Doyle