Russian To The Metro – An Updated Look At The Influx Of Russian Netminders In The Metropolitan Division

In recent seasons we’ve seen a tremendous wave of new Russian-born goaltenders begin to make an impact in the Metropolitan Division. NoVa Caps examined this before the 2019-20 season, provided an update before the 2020-21 season, and provided another update before the 2021-22 season.

This update discusses the young Russian goaltenders within the Metropolitan Division on a team-by-team basis.

New York Rangers

Two young goaltenders, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev emerged for the Rangers. The Rangers drafted Shesterkin in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and signed the Georgiev as a free agent before the 2017-18 season.

Shesterkin played for several years in the KHL before coming to North America before the 2019-20 season. He became a full-time NHL goalie midway through that season and has been in the NHL ever since.

Georgiev played in a few games during the 2018-19 season but the 2019-20 season was his first full season in the NHL and he’s remained in the NHL since.

Shesterkin has emerged as the number one goalie for the Rangers, as he played in 53 games, posted a won-loss record of 36-13-4, a goals-against-average of 2.07, and save percentage of .935. He won the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender in the NHL and posted the fourth-best all-time save percentage for a goaltender playing in at least 40 games. His goaltending was instrumental in the Rangers advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021-22.

Photo: NHL

With Shesterkin the clear number one goalie and Georgiev reaching restricted free agency, the Rangers saw fit to trade Georgiev to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

New York Islanders

The Islanders originally drafted Ilya Sorokin in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with the 78th overall pick. Sorokin finally signed a contract with the Islanders after the 2019-20 season and made his NHL debut once the season started. [The start of the 2020-21 season was delayed due to Covid.]

Sorokin served as part of a tandem for the 2020-21 season but emerged as the Islanders’ Number one goaltender during the 2021-22 season. He played in 52 games and posted a record of 26-18-8, a goals-against-average of 2.33, and a save percentage of .925.

Sorokin became the third goaltender in NHL history (min. 50 appearances) to post a save percentage of .935 or higher in a single season, joining Tim Thomas (2010-11 – .938) and Dominik Hasek (1998-99 – .937).

Photo: Corey Sipkin

Washington Capitals

The Capitals drafted Ilya Samsonov in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He first came over to North America before the 2018-19 season and played that season with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. He made his NHL debut during the 2019-20 season and, aside from a few rehabilitation games with Hershey, remained in the NHL ever since.

Photo: NHL

With the departure of Braden Holtby after the 2019-20 season, Samsonov was expected to become the #1 goalie for the Capitals the following season. However, he contracted Covid and was sidelined for more than a month. Towards the end of the season, he was scratched for disciplinary reasons and returned to Covid protocol before returning to action in the playoffs after Vitek Vanecek was injured.

During the 2021-22 season, Smaonov and Vanacek were expected to battle it out for the number one goaltending job for the Capitals. As it turned out, neither Samsonov nor Vanecek performed consistently well enough to retain the number one position as they both started the same number of games, 39 games apiece.

Samsonov posted a record of 23-12-5, with a goals-against-average of 3.02 and a save percentage of .896. He played in the Caps’ last five playoff games this season, posting a 1-3 record, a save percentage of .912, and a goals-against-average of 2.97.

After the season, the Capitals’ management decided to go in a different direction for goaltending, as both goaltenders were restricted free agents. They traded Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks and did not give Samsonov a qualifying offer, so he became an unrestricted free agent. Samsonov ultimately signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Samsonov posted a good-bye message to the Capitals on Instagram

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Daniil Tarasov in the third round (86th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He signed an entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets before the 2019-20 season but was lent to Assat of the Finnish League for the season.

During 2020-21, he played with his prior KHL team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, as there was no hockey in North America due to the Covid pandemic. Once his KHL team was eliminated from the Gagarin Cup playoffs, he played with the Blue Jackets’ affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters.

Photo: Cleveland Monsters

In 2021-22, he returned to the Monsters and played in 11 games where he compiled a 3-3 record, a goals-against-average of 3.06, and a save percentage of .893.  He was called up to Columbus where he played in four games and posted a record of 0-2. His save percentage was .937 and his goals against were 2.40. He will likely play in more games for the Blue Jackets in 2022-23.

Columbus added another Russian goalie prospect to their system as they drafted Sergei Ivanov in the fifth round with the 138th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Ivanov played mainly with SKA St Petersburg in the MHL and is expected to remain with them for the coming season.

Philadelphia Flyers

During the 2021-22 season, the Flyers had two Russian prospects, Ivan Fedotov, who was a seventh-round pick (188th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, and Kirill Ustimenko, who was drafted in the third round (80th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Fedotov played with CSKA in the KHL for the 2021-22 season, appearing in 26 games, posting a record of 14-10-2 with a goals-against-average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .919.

In the Gagarin Cup playoffs, he compiled a 16-6 record with a save percentage of .937 and a goals against average of 1.85. He also represented Russia in the 2022 Olympic games, helping the Russians win the Silver Medal.

Fedotov was 4-2-0 with a save percentage of .943 and a goals-against-average of 1.61. He signed a one-year NHL contract with the Flyers for the 2022-23 season. However, the St. Petersburg police detained him for “evading” military service. Note: Russians mandate that all men over the age of 20 need to engage in a year of military service and are enforcing that rule during their war with Ukraine.

Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Kirill Ustimenko played in the Flyers’ farm system for both their ECHL team, the Reading Royals, and their AHL team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He played in 19 games for Reading, posting a record of 9-6-3, with a save percentage of .916 and goals-against-average of 2.67. He appeared in eight games for the Phantoms, posting a record of 1-3-2, a goals-against-average of 2.91, and a save percentage of .900. He became a Restricted Free Agent at the end of the 2021-22 season but was not extended a qualifying offer from the Flyers. He thus became an Unrestricted Free agent and signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL. This likely marks the end of his NHL aspirations.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Pyotr Kochetkov in the second round (36th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to a two-year entry-level contract on May 1, 2021. For most of the 2021-22 season, he was loaned to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in the KHL. Hoever, following the KHL postseason, he came over to North America and played with the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.

Photo: NHL

While there, he had a 13-1-1 record with a 2.09 GAA and 0.921 save percentage. But late in the season, the Canes suffered numerous injuries to their goaltending corps which included their number one goalie, Frederick Andersen, suffering a knee injury that knocked him out for the season.

Kochetkov played in three games for the Canes and won them all. He posted a GAA of 2.42 and a save percentage of .902. He ended up playing in four playoff games with the Canes where he was 1-2 with a save percentage of .869, and a GAA of 3.88.

Once Carolina was eliminated from the playoffs, he returned to the Chicago Wolves, who ultimately won the Calder Cup for the AHL Championship. His playoff record was 5-1, as he posted a save percentage of .950 and a goals-against-average of 1.65.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins joined their Metropolitan Division brethren in the Russian goaltending fun in the 2022 NHL Entry draft. They drafted Sergei Murasov in the fourth round with the 118th overall pick. He played the 2021-22 season for Loko-76 Yaroslavl in the Russian Junior League where he posted a 21-16-3 record in 41 games, along with a 2.49 goal-against-average and a .927 save percentage. He has also represented Russia internationally in 18-Under action.

By Diane Doyle

Further Reading

The Russian Invasion: An Updated Look At The Influx Of Russian Netminders In The Metropolitan Division
The Russian Infusion: An Updated Look At The Influx of Young Russian Goaltenders in the NHL
The Russians Are Coming!: A Look at the Influx of Russian Goaltenders in the Metropolitan Division

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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1 Response to Russian To The Metro – An Updated Look At The Influx Of Russian Netminders In The Metropolitan Division

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thinned out a bit over the last two weeks, but still and incredibly dense population of Russian netminders in the metro.

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