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NHL Central Scoutings #1 rated european goalie prospect, Ilya Samsonov is also the Number 1 rated goalie prospect on our draft board. Drafted 34th overall Metallurg Magnitigorsk in the 2014 KHL draft, he has only played one game in the men’s league, instead spending most of his time in the Russian Junior League, the MHL where he put up a .918 save percentage in 18 regular season games and a .937 save percentage in a short-lived playoff run. The fact that he is in the Russian junior league is not unusual for a 17/18 year-old goaltender. He has played for Russia at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge, where he was less than impressive. However he was great at the World Junior A Challenge with a .952 save percentage in the tournament where he was a two-year underager. Samsonov had a .942 save percentage for Russia at the five nations, helping them to a gold medal victory. He was also outstanding in this spring’s IIHF World Under 18 tournament putting up a .934 save percentage. This included an incredible 49 saves on 50 shots as the Russians defeated the eventual gold medal winning Americans in the Preliminary Round. He was named the best goaltender of the tournament, and a top 3 player on his team. Following in the footsteps of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Samsonov is another player who shows the resurgence of Russian goaltending prospects. He is signed with Magnitigorsk through the 2016-17 season according to Eliteprospects.com.
Goalie — Shoots Left, Catches Left
Born Feb 22 1997 — Magnitogorsk, RUS
Height 6’3″ Weight 201 lbs (190 cm / 91 kg)
Ilya Samsonov has the ideal size that teams are looking for in goaltenders today at 6’3″ and 201 lbs. Samsonov makes the most of that size, coming out to challenge on plays, and reducing the amount of net that forwards have to shoot at. He is very athletic, and never gives up on a play, resulting in him being able to make some ridiculous saves. Samsonov has strong legs, and gets side to side across the crease quickly and efficiently. He plays a tight butterfly and his legs kick out quickly to take away the bottom of the net. He has a fast glove hand and blocker as well. Samsonov skates backwards very well, and this makes him hard to beat on dekes as he can come out to cut down those angles, but backs up quickly if the shooter instead tries to go around him. His positioning is very good and he remains square to the puck even when moving around as the puck is passed in the offensive zone.
In terms of weaknesses, Samsonov needs to work on his rebound control, though this is something that is a common problem for young goaltenders and it is something that can be developped over the next several years. He also doesn’t seem to handle the puck very well, though he also doesn’t do it very often. One issue is that my viewings of Samsonov are small as we pretty much only see him at international tournaments, and this has been limited to about 3-5 games or so. That said he has been very impressive in what I have seen.
Samsonov’s ceiling is to be a number 1 goaltender in the NHL, though there will be a long term development plan needed, as with almost all goalies his age. His game resembles Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, though this is a style comparison and not a talent one. I believe he is the most talented goalie in the draft and the only thing that could see him from being the first goalie off the board is the worry about his KHL status and signability concerns.
Below are some videos of Ilya Samsonov in Action.
Check back tomorrow for the #32 prospect on our list.
Main Photo: Ilya Samsonov. Photo: www.ak-bars.ru