The Carolina Hurricanes three-headed goalie monster of Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov forms a very reliable trio backstopping the team. The youngest of the three, Kochetkov, is likely number three on the depth chart. But he is a very close three. At only 24 years old, Kochetkov has improved year after year and shown flashes of brilliance. But is Kochetkov ready to take another step and jump Raanta or Andersen on the depth chart?
Pyotr Kochetkov Ready to be the Goalie of the Future
Kochetkov has shown progressively that he could be the goalie of the future for the Carolina Hurricanes. He is another promising young Russian netminder following the paths of fellow Metropolitan Divison goalies Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers. Both of which are Russian goalies with Vezina capabilities. Passed over in two previous drafts, Carolina drafted Kochetkov in the second round of the 2019 draft. Following that year, he spent some time in Russia, progressing really well, before coming to North America in the 2021-22 season.
In 2021-22, he started in Russia and put up a .926 save percentage in 23 KHL games. He then suited up in 15 games for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL with a .921 save percentage. Kochetkov also got his first taste of NHL action that year with three games for Carolina, all wins with a .902 save percentage. He is the second goalie in Hurricanes/Whalers history to win his first three games and the first in NHL history to do so in a four-day span all on the road.
He also got in a few NHL playoff games that season including a big mid-game relief performance against the Boston Bruins in the first round. However, he really shined in the AHL playoffs where he helped the Wolves win the Calder Cup. There he had five wins and one loss with a 1.65 GAA and .950 save percentage in six AHL playoff games. It was a big step forward for Kochetkov because he showed that his progression in Russia was translating to the AHL/NHL as well.
Kochetkov This Past Season
The 2022-23 season was largely a step forward for Kochetkov, which is a good sign. Sure, it had its ups and downs but when he was on…..he was on. Overall, he had 12 wins, seven losses and five overtime losses in 24 games played. He started 23. He had a 2.44 GAA and a .909 SV%. Notably, he had a very good stretch in December when Andersen was out due to injury where he looked like he may take the reigns as the starting goalie. His back-to-back shutouts, 7-0-1 record, 1.63 GAA and .939 SV% earned him rookie of the month for December. However, he slid back from his hot December and returned to the AHL once Andersen was healthy.
Kochetkov’s biggest shining star stat was his four shutouts. Tied for the team lead and tied for third in the NHL. He also led all Carolina goalies in goals saved above expected at 4.9 and goals against. With starts fairly evenly split between the three goalies during the regular season, Kochetkov’s only playoff taste was in relief of Raanta in a weird game three against the New Jersey Devils in the second round.
A Player for the Fans
One other aspect of Kochetkov is the passion he brings to every game. Even though he speaks broken English, he seems to have a smile on his face off the ice and a fire in him on the ice. He plays a very athletic style and is not afraid to make sprawling Hasek-like saves or utilize a very active stick. His puck handling isn’t shabby either as he has a pro goal to his name from an AHL game.
Meanwhile, he also is not afraid to mix it up with opposing players….or the entire bench. There were numerous times in both the AHL and NHL when Kochetkov was the center of both verbal and physical altercations. One notable occurrence happened with Brad Marchand of the Bruins. These actions certainly get fans on their feet. But his job is to stop pucks, not fight. If Kochetkov can keep his emotions in check such that they do not affect his play, however, this is a goalie for the fans.
A League of Russian Netminders
Not exactly comparing apples to apples but taking a look at Sorokin and Shesterkins’ respective progressions can shed some light on Kochetkov’s development and expectations. Keep in mind goalies usually develop later than players and are typically all over the board as far as progressions.
Shesterkin is currently 27 years old. His first NHL season was 2019-20 where he played in 12 games and was 24 years old when he made his NHL debut. He progressively took more starts as the seasons went on, playing the most last season with 58. His best season was 2021-22 where he had six shutouts, a league-leading 2.09 GAA and .935 SV% which was the best in the NHL and third-best all-time among goalies to play at least 50 games. He won the Vezina that year. Last season he regressed some with a 2.48 GAA and .916 SV% but carried a slightly heavier workload. Also, he had three shutouts. He is clearly the Rangers starter and one of the best in the league.
Sorokin is currently 28 years old and had his NHL debut in the 2020-21 season after spending much time in Russia and playing internationally. Each of his three seasons has seen Sorokin taking on a larger workload, going from 22 starts to 52 to 62 last season. His stats have remained somewhat consistent over the last two seasons. But last season, he was a Vezina finalist after putting up a 2.34 GAA and .924 SV% with a league-leading six shutouts. Another clear starter and great Russian goalie in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Kochetkov is playing in his third NHL season this upcoming year and is 24. Overall, last year he was right there with Sorokin and Shesterkin in GAA and slightly lower in SV% but in less than half the games played. On the other side of the coin, he had one more shutout than Shesterkin and two less than Sorokin in less than half the games played. Comparing Kochetkov’s season at age 24 to Shesterkin’s or Sorokin’s first NHL season is a little like comparing apples to oranges given their different development backgrounds, but again, Kochetkov was right there in the mix.
Kochetkov Ready for the 2023-24 Season and Beyond…
So Kochetkov has shown statistically that he can at the least hang in the NHL and at many times be a star. Is this Kochetkov or the product of Carolina’s defence? Given his progression in the AHL and KHL, it may be the former, or at least a mix. But does it matter if this is his team? Just like players, goalies need chemistry with their team.
It is interesting to wonder what a heavier workload for Kochetkov would produce. Improvement in his numbers or not? Unlike the Rangers or Islanders, Carolina largely uses a goalie-by-committee approach. No goalie is really getting the amount of starts like Sorokin or Shesterkin. Will that change once Raanta and/or Andersen leave? Time will tell. But at only 24, Kochetkov is showing that he is closely behind his fellow Russians. I wouldn’t say he is the next Shesterkin or Sorokin (yet). However, if he can find a little more consistency, he could get fairly close at the least.
Management clearly has plans for Kochetkov as they signed him to a four-year deal that could be potentially beneficial. For this upcoming season, I would expect to see him utilized much like last. He is still waiver exempt which makes him the logical number three on the rotation. But if he comes to camp and shows another step forward, the Hurricanes may have no choice but to give him a heavier load. Again, consistency is key for Kochetkov. The potential appears to be there though. He has the ability, another year of experience, and the passion to ignite a fire in the team and fans. While patience is a virtue, don’t be surprised to see Kochetkov take another step this season and move closer to the goalie of the future for the Hurricanes.
Main Photo Credit: Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports