The San Jose Sharks have signed free agent, Russian goaltender, Alexei Melnichuk, to a two-year, entry-level contract. Melnichuk has spent three seasons with SKA St Petersburg in the KHL. The deal carries him through the 2021-22 season.
— Dan Milstein-Hockey (@HockeyAgent1) May 4, 2020
Alexei Melnichuk Signs with the San Jose Sharks
Over his three-year KHL career, Melnichuk has played 18 games and posted a 9-5-1 record with a 0.922 save percentage and 1.75 goals-against average. He went undrafted in the NHL three times despite ranking eighth among European goaltenders by Central Scouting in 2018.
Until now, the 6’1”, 187-pound, Russian has played his entire career in his hometown, St Petersburg. He has dressed in all three tiers of Russian hockey since 2015. However, the 2019-20 season saw him properly break into the KHL for the first time.
This year, Melnichuk was promoted to backup on an elite SKA St Petersburg team after consistent success in the VHL, Russia’s second-tier. In 16 KHL games in 2019-20, Melnichuk finished with a team-high 0.930 save percentage. He also ranked fifth in GAA (1.68) among KHL goalies with at least 14 games played.
Throughout his VHL career, Melnichuk has been a clutch performer in the postseason. He led SKA-Neva St Petersburg deep into the playoffs for three consecutive years. Most notably, his 0.963 postseason record in 9 games in 2019 carried his side to the semi-finals. Melnichuk also featured for Team Russia in the World Junior Championships in 2018.
What This Means for the Future
The Sharks have snagged a bargain prospect at a position that they desperately needed to replenish. Starting goaltender, Martin Jones probably won’t last the length of his contract in San Jose, which expires in 2024, and backup, Aaron Dell becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. While Melnichuk does not come NHL ready, the AHL provides the perfect platform for him to prove himself in his first year.
The 21-year-old follows in the footsteps of former teammates Mikko Koskinen and Igor Shesterkin and adds to the burgeoning Russian goalie contingent in North America. Melnichuk was reportedly courted by three other clubs, including the Sharks’ bitter Pacific Divison rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights.