The emergence of Ilya Samsonov
When the Washington Capitals selected Ilya Samsonov with the 22nd pick of the 2015 NHL draft, there was overwhelming speculation that his NHL dreams would heavily rely on his ability to adjust to the North American game mainly speaking to the smaller ice surface.
For many European goaltenders this task can prove to be very tough and while most get the job done and thrive at the next level, there are some that don’t and ultimately end up heading back to their respective KHL or SHL clubs. Much to the joy of the Capitals’ front office, Ilya wasn’t one of these guys who “didn’t cut it”.
During his first year in Hershey, injuries plagued him all season long but Caps brass weren’t waivering by his dip in play. Capitals Director of Player Development Steve Richmond and then Bears bench boss Troy Mann kept expectations high and pushed him to improve along with Caps legend Olaf Kolzig who frequented on the Bears/Capitals “goaltending development” staff.
From the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Ilya brought a new energy and rejuvenation to his game. Although the first half of the season didn’t go quite as planned and he showed how tough the transition to the North American style can be.
Up until the end of December he put forth a 3.88 goals against average and a .848 save percentage but once the calendar turned to January for the Bears he posted an impressive 1.64 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
As it turns out February was even better, where he boasted a 1.50 GAA and .949 save %. The future looks very bright for the young goaltender therefore do not be surprised if we see him donning a Capitals sweater as early as next season.