Finding a starting goalie in the NHL can be tricky and it can take years for teams to find a quality starting netminder. Just aPhiladelphiadlephia Flyers or the Dallas Stars. The Capitals, however, don’t have to worry about that.
Not only does Washington have a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie in Braden Holtby, they also have a goalie they are very confident will be their future starter in Ilya Samsonov.
Samsonov’s KHL contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season. Should his team lose early enough in the season, he could potentially come to the NHL in the spring of 2018 in much the same way that Evgeny Kuznetsov did at the end of his KHL contract.
That, however, is not the timeline the team envisions for their young netminder.
In a conference call with the media on Monday, assistant general manager was asked if Samsonov was still at least a year away from playing North American hockey.
“That's probably going to be the timeline,” Mahoney said. “I think there's no need to rush him. He's progressed very well for us. He played very well I thought last year in the KHL and I thought he was really, really good at the World Junior, the under-20.”
In six games in the World Junior tournament playing for Team Russia, Samsonov registered a 2.11 GAA with a .930 save percentage en route to a bronze medal. That, however, was just against young players. How did he fare in a professional league against seasoned vets? Pretty darn good.
Playing in the KHL, the league thought by most to be the second best hockey league in the world, Samsonov registerd a 2.13 GAA and .936 save percentage in 2016-17 playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
The only worry the Caps seem to have about their budding prospect is whether he is getting enough playing time. Samsonov is the backup for his KHL team and played in just 27 games last season and 46 over the past two years.
“You always like to see your young goalies play a lot and [I] wish he would have had a few more games for sure,” Mahoney said. “But watching him play in the under-20 in the world juniors, I thought he took it again to another level and so that was really healthy. Any time you have these younger players you want to make sure that they're continuing to get better and better and better and he showed that. In the KHL, it would be nice to see him play some more games, but that's a team also that lost the league championship and has a veteran goalie playing ahead of him.”
Even when Samsonov does come to North America, there’s no guarantee he goes directly to the NHL. It can take players some time to adjust from the European game to the North American game with the different rink sizes and style of play. The fact that Samsonov could be a year away does not necessarily mean Samsonov will be rocking the red in the 2018-19 season.
The prospect of having to wait even logner to see Samsonov take the crease in Washington is a bummer, but there’s one important thing to remember.
“You forget, he's only a 19-year old this past year so he's still a young guy,” Mahoney said, “And I think his future is really going to be bright.”
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