This is Pyotr Kochetkov’s last year to potentially get drafted, and he’s been overlooked twice now — not normally a sign of a player teams have particularly high hopes for.
In this case, though, there’s a legitimate reason for teams to be excited at the idea of drafting him instead of waiting around to sign him as a free agent. His age-19 season has been an absolute standout year statistically, and the fact that he’ll have a powerhouse club over in Europe next year to continue developing with only makes the idea of drafting him that much more enticing.
There’s always a risk/reward angle to consider when drafting European goaltenders, who may never necessarily come overseas; the lack of plentiful depth chart options can leave all but the most promising of goaltending prospects sticking with what they know for as long as possible.
As some have already pointed out, though, Kochetkov’s numbers align him with Columbus 2017 draftee Daniil Tarasov. And with Tarasov headed for North America this upcoming year, it’s likely that the team willing to toss a pick at Kotchetkov could end up with this draft’s diamond in the rough.
- Age/Birthdate: 19 / June 25, 1999
- Birthplace: Penza, RUS
- Frame: 6-foot-3 / 205 lbs
- Position: Goaltender
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: HK Ryazan (VHL)
- U20 WJC Best Goaltender
- U20 WJC Bronze Medal
- U20 WJC Top 3 Player on Team
- VHL Goaltender of the Week (Oct. 30)
2018-19 Stat Rundown
Just as it’s not entirely fair to write a goaltending prospect off for a weak performance at an international tournament, it’s important not to get too excited about Kochetkov solely based on his play at the World Juniors. But after getting overlooked two years in a row, both by NHL draft clubs and by the Russian national team, he had one hell of a coming-out party in Vancouver.
He’s neither the biggest nor the smallest goaltender in the draft, so he doesn’t stand out physically when he takes the ice. But that almost works to his advantage, leaving him to play a balanced, controlled-looking game that relies on fantastic depth management and precision instead of over-aggression or flashy athleticism.
It may have been this quiet nature of his game that left him overlooked for so long, but it’s kept his numbers looking strong as he’s risen in the ranks of the Russian hockey system. That’s reassuring; he’s both controlled and understated when he makes a stop, with a good understanding of how to make depth recoveries and re-gain his positioning without losing his focus on the puck.
What makes him especially unique, though, is that he still maintains a strong level of agility and flexibility. In younger prospects, it can be easy to see players either fall into a flashy-but-limber category or a stiffer-but-controlled category, with a lack of experience and muscular control leaving the more flexible young goaltenders lacking a certain level of precision to their games. As they get older, the more agile goaltenders tend to tighten their games up, while those who lack the initial hip mobility tend to be the ones who compensate with better positioning (like Canada’s Alexis Gravel of the 2018 draft class).
In Kotchetkov’s case, though, he boasts both fantastic core control and a wide butterfly, using his age and experience to his advantage by standing head and shoulders above the other goaltenders in the middle of the pack in combining flexibility and positioning.
The biggest question is how well his game will hold up when moving up to the KHL level on a more full-time basis next year, which seems to be in the cards. He was a fairly under-the-radar name when he was playing in years past, with his stellar play at the World Juniors truly pushing him to the forefront of everyone’s minds — so without years of international competition to compare him to, it’s tough to really gauge how consistent his game is.
That being said, though, his biggest NHL comparable has been said to be Sergei Bobrovsky. And if he’s able to maintain that kind of control and agility, all while continuing to play a measured depth and developing his lateral control from the get-go, it’s hard to imagine that a team won’t come away with a win if they’re willing to use a pick here.
There isn’t a European goaltender ranked higher this year by Central Scouting, which may seem surprising given Kochetkov’s age. He played against men this past year, competing primarily in the second-tier VHL while making a two game appearance with the KHL’s HK Sochi, but it would have been a letdown if he wasn’t doing so at this point — particularly if he was hoping to get drafted.
Where he truly stood out, though, was at the World Juniors. That was the tournament that gave Danish prospect Mads Søgaard so much trouble, but it did the opposite for Kotchetkov — who ultimately skated away with both a bronze medal and a Best Goaltender honor for the entire tournament.
He’s been traded to SKA St. Petersburg for the upcoming season, where he’ll get a chance to compete for time with former Rangers prospect Magnus Hellberg now that Igor Shestyorkin has signed to come over to North America. It’s a fantastic situation for Kotchetkov, as he’ll be able to hopefully make a strong push for playing time on a powerhouse team.
SKA is known for preaching uniformity, even going as far as to make Hellberg and Shestyorkin don matching pads last season. But having a tandem partner who boasts North American experience, not to mention a quality roster to play behind, should give Kochetkov the perfect environment to prepare for a somewhat-seamless transition to North America when the team that drafts him opts to bring him over.
Even if he only spends a brief period of time in the KHL, though, there’s a lot to love about the way that Kochetkov plays the game. He’s controlled, he’s cognizant, and his movements have the advantage of two extra draft years on the rest of his class. So while there’s always that extra time to keep in mind — he’s not quite as good when you think about the two-year age advantage he has over his peers — there is that added element of advantage that a team could gain by drafting him. He’ll be North America ready much faster, should he want to come over, and could be ready to help replenish a somewhat weak depth chart whenever a team wishes.
Raw data used in this article came from eliteprospects.com, en.khl.ru and vhlru.ru.
Goaltender, coach, journalist, and runner. Raising a rambunctious two-year-old in the Phoenix area. Bylines at The Athletic NHL, InGoal Magazine, NHL.com, and more along the way. Specialist in goaltending video and analysis, but great for chats about distance running and New York style pizza in her spare time.