Will Flyers’ Russian goalie prospect enhance a team revival?

      From the files of last week’s column regarding a possible turnaround for the Flyers next season we bring you the case of the “secret weapon’’ goaltender from an extremely unpopular corner of the world right now.
      That would be Flyers prospect goaltender Ivan Fedotov, the recently signed (May 7) free agent who set the Kontinental Hockey League on fire this past season.
      Fedotov, who stands a towering 6-foot-8 in height, recorded a brilliant 2.00 goals-against average, led his team to the league championship Gagarin Cup (winning 18 of 22 starts) and finished second in voting for best goaltender of the league.
      If all goes well, he will attend Flyers development camp this summer and be on hand to compete for the backup job behind regular starter Carter Hart next season.
      We bring this up partly because of what we’re seeing in a recent trend around the National Hockey League – namely an abundance of Russian goaltenders performing at a high level.
      Just look at the Eastern Conference Final: The New York Rangers are backstopped by Vezina Trophy favorite Igor Shesterkin. On the opposite end of the rink the equally brilliant Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
      However, that’s not all.
      You have ex-Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky in Florida; Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov with the New York Islanders; Ilya Samsonov starring on the Washington Capitals; and Anton Khudobin in Dallas.
      “There was a time when it seemed every great goalie came out of Quebec,” Tampa head coach Jon Cooper told the New York Times. Cooper added that Finland and Sweden were earlier sources of superb goalie talent. “It’s the Russians’ turn, and you’re getting to see greatness in these two guys (Vasilevskiy, Shesterkin).”
      Some people believe Fedotov cannot only challenge for Philadelphia’s backup spot but give Hart a run for his money at the No. 1 post.
      Hart is signed for another two years after his season, with 22-year-old prospect Samuel Ersson being the only other goalie signed past 2021-22. Kirill Ustimenko and Felix Sandstrom will both become RFAs, while 32-year-old Martin Jones is a pending UFA.
      On the day of Fedotov’s signing, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher praised the 25-year-old Fedotov’s work over the past few seasons.
      “Ivan is a player we have followed closely and are very pleased with his development,” said Fletcher. “He’s put a number of strong seasons together in the KHL culminating this year when he captured an Olympic Silver Medal and a KHL Championship.”
      According to The Hockey News, Fedotov – a seventh round pick (188th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft) — has the tools to play in the NHL right now.
      Fedotov finished his first season with CSKA Moskva with a 14-10-2 record with two shutouts, the aforementioned 2.00 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Over the past three seasons, Fedotov’s .925 save percentage is 10th among goalies with at least 80 games played and just 10 percentage points off the lead, with his best two seasons carrying save percentages of .931 and .925. Most of the top KHL goaltenders typically have higher save percentages than what you’d typically see in the NHL, but goalies like Sorokin and Shesterkin made the jump over to the NHL with little difficulty.
      All this is not to say Fedotov can be classified as an overnight sensation. He’s been in the KHL since 2014 and only been posting big numbers over the past two seasons. Plus, Hart showed a lot of improvement last season over the previous campaign.
      And it’s also not to say that Fletcher won’t think about going out and finding another veteran backup for Hart, a la Jones, once free agency opens in mid-July. Who knows? Fedotov could have a great training camp and still wind up starting the season in the American Hockey League with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
      But just watching Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin perform brilliantly night after night can at least make the Flyers wonder if they might have another Russian sensation of their own on their hands


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About Wayne Fish 2446 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.