According to a report from Sport-Express hockey writer and Russian hockey insider Igor Eronko, KHL superstar Ilya Samsonov may be ready to join the Washington Capitals once his season with Magnitogorsk Metallurg concludes.
As Eronko points out as well, Samsonov’s hometown team has offered him a contract extension, but the youngster hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll stay home or give the NHL a shot.
The 21 year old goaltender was selected by the Capitals in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has excelled in the KHL since then. In just 28 games with Mettalurg this season, Samsonov sported a 2.29 goals against average and .926 save percentage. He has also represented Russia in back to back World Junior Championships, earning a silver and bronze medals for his efforts.
Last offseason, the outspoken goaltender let it be known that he’s eyeing a spot with the Capitals behind starter Braden Holtby but that it won’t come easy. “There is a chance (I could back up Holtby), but I need to work harder,” Samosonov said in an interview with Russian journalist Daria Tuboltseva. “This is the best league in the world after all. There are another five prospects competing for the same spot as me.”
Of course, the Capitals already have backup Philipp Gubauer under contract for the backup position and the 26 year old has proven himself to be capable of taking on a heavier workload. The Rosenheim, Germany native has started 32 games for the Caps this season earning 13 wins and putting up a stellar 2.35 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
It seems then that Samsonov may have his work cut out for him. Maybe that's why he also admitted that he’s open to the idea of working his way up through the system starting in the AHL. “Why not? Or you can say that you are not prepared to play in the AHL, and be left with no game action, and that is not a good thing,” Samsonov said. “The AHL may be a step down for the skaters, but for a goalie – the puck is the same, everything is the same, it will only be helpful.”
It remains to be seen what happens with Samsonov this offseason, but one thing’s clear: he’ll be in high demand. Whether it’s the Capitals or Metallurg who ultimately gets him to put pen to paper however remains to be seen.