For the first time since Andrei Trefilov, the Calgary Flames have a Russian goaltender under contract. The club signed free agent netminder Artyom Zagidulin to a one year contract this past spring. Can Zagidulin translate his impressive Russian performances?
Based on his sheer potential, Zagidulin is our 16th-ranked prospect in the Flames system.
How did we get here?
Originally from Magnitigorsk, Russia, the 24-year-old Zagidulin has spent much of his high-level playing career with his hometown team. His first major time away from Magnitigorsk was in 2017-18, when he spent the season with Kurgan of the VHL – a seven hour drive from Magnitigorsk.
If you look at Zagidulin’s progression, the words “late bloomer” come to mind. He wasn’t a blow-away goaltender in his teens, but he’s seemingly found a good rhythm as he’s matured.
|2014-15||19||3 (.975)||38 (.919)|
|2015-16||20||1 (.929)||14 (.907)||4 (.951)|
|2016-17||21||10 (.949)||9 (.934)|
At the ripe old age of 23, Zagidulin made the decision to leave his comfort zone and try out North American hockey.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
The 2018-19 campaign was Zagidulin’s third full pro season and fifth season where he spent at least part of it playing pro hockey. While he’s spent more time in the secondary VHL than the KHL at this point of his career – 66 VHL games vs. 36 KHL games – he’s done enough in both leagues to turn some heads.
He spent this latest season backing up Russian goaltending legend Vasily Koshechkin in Magnitigorsk. Koshechkin is basically Metallurg’s version of Henrik Lundqvist, if injuries and age hadn’t eroded Lundqvist’s excellence quite as rapidly. Zagidulin played 25 games, went 12-7-3 with a .924 save percentage and 1.96 goals against average. He played half as much as Koshechkin, who had a .930 save percentage and a 2.06 goals against average.
For the curious, Zagidulin posted weaker numbers than New York Rangers prospect Igor Shestyorkin (.953 save percentage) and New York Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin (.940 save percentage) while playing slightly less.
Those in the know
Flames director of player development Ray Edwards agreed with comparisons with David Rittich’s development path – particularly the duo each having impressive performances in Europe in their early 20s – but cautioned that Zagiudlin’s development path might be a bit different.
I think we all know that this isn’t a situation where we expect him to come in and do what David did right away. This may take a little bit more time, and that’s okay. We see enough raw ability in this guy and the progression with him will be ‘okay, bring him over here, let’s get him accustomed to our culture, how we do things, how we play,’ because as you know the game’s way different [in Russia]. They play way more a possession game. There’s not a ton of traffic, there’s not as much movement in front of the net. So I think let’s get him over here, let’s get him accustomed to how the North American game is, let’s get him comfortable with the culture in terms of learning the language. This is a two or three year model.
On the horizon
Given the Flames’ glut of goaltenders, it seems probable that Zagidulin joins Nick Schneider with the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks for 2019-20. From there, if he has a good start to the season it seems likely that the Flames will try to get him some American Hockey League reps – though that might be dependent on injuries or trades involving their projected AHL goalies Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons.
Zagidulin’s a longer term play than many of the other goalies in the system. He’ll be a restricted free agent when his one year deal expires.
|#20 – Lucas Feuk||#19 – Josh Nodler|
|#18 – Linus Lindstrom||#17 – Carl-Johan Lerby|