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A Breakdown of Pyotr Kochetkov’s Hot Start in Chicago

The Russian goaltender has been stellar in his first four appearances in North America.

Kontinental Hockey League: CSKA Moscow vs Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images

The Hurricanes now have their most promising goalie prospect in North America. They have to be impressed with Pyotr Kochetkov, who is 4-0-0 in his first four starts with the Chicago Wolves. Kochetkov has a .925 save percentage and a 2.27 GAA in those four starts. These are impressive numbers for a 22-year-old goaltender playing his first games in North America while also learning English in the process.

It’s not an easy transition for Kochetkov, but he has been up to the task thus far. I’ve watched all four of Kochetkov’s starts for the Wolves and have some notes on how he has played, what he has done well and what he needs to improve on. We’ll start with what I’ve liked, what has been good at times and bad at other times and then finish with what I’d like to see Kochetkov improve on.

First, what I’ve been impressed with is Kochetkov’s ability to explode out and make a difficult save. He challenges shooters and can make a quick adjustment if he finds himself to be out of position. He tracks the puck well in close and his strong pushes give him the ability to move laterally and make a stop. Sometimes, it’s a routine save, other times, it looks like this.

These are the types of saves that get you on your feet, even when you’re watching from home. Another thing I’ve loved about Kochetkov is that he never seems to give up on a play. Even when he’s down or out of position, he never gives up and will try and make the stop. That sort of dogged determination is best summed up in this clip from earlier in that same game.

The first save was excellent as well, kicking out the pads to prevent a goal. Then, he is able to spin and stack the pads to make a desperation save. A thing of beauty. The phrase “standing on his head” can be used as a literal description of Kochetkov’s game because he will do whatever he needs to in order to keep the puck out of the net.

Another thing I’ve been impressed with is Kochetkov’s ability to track the puck in close. Most goalies tend to struggle with high danger shots, but Kochetkov thrives in those scenarios. Here’s another impressive save from that same game against Texas.

All of these clips were from the same game, mostly because I feel that it was his best game. Kochetkov was dialed in and made some impressive stops in addition to these. I would say that his other three games have all been excellent, and even though he allowed three goals in his first two starts with the Wolves, they were both better games than his start against Grand Rapids on Wednesday night. Kochetkov was able to keep his team in the game despite some shaky defense and some awful turnovers in front of the net. It was impressive.

Now, Kochetkov has these moments where you’re not entirely sure what he’s doing. He can flail a bit and tends to drift out of position on occasion. It’s similar to what we saw with Alex Nedeljkovic, where he’ll make the save but you’re not entirely sure why he needed to make it so difficult on himself. You may need to ask your doctor if watching a Kochetkov start is for you, because his games aren’t great for your heart. It’s occasionally a roller coaster ride that happens to be doing loop-de-loops while it’s on fire. Take his puck playing for example. I love his confidence with the puck and in fairness to him, he is one of the better puck playing goalies that I’ve seen in a while. The problem is that he’ll go out of his way to play the puck, often putting the puck in a dangerous area where a turnover can occur. He has gotten away with it at the AHL level, but in the NHL, he won’t be as lucky. His puck playing can be good as it keeps the play moving and allows for the Wolves to catch teams by surprise. However, it could potentially lead to some ugly goals against as well as appearances on Sportsnet Dang-It videos.

Now, let’s talk about the one area in Kochetkov’s game that needs the most improvement. It’s a big one, too. Kochetkov’s rebound control is not great and can lead to goals against if he’s not careful. This first clip that I’ll use ends in two saves for Kochetkov, but the rebound he gives up is a problem.

The good? Kochetkov makes two saves, including one where he attacks the shooter and takes away the angle. The bad? This is a really tough rebound to give up and he’s lucky that the Stars’ forwards were so slow to get to the puck. The next play is a goal, which occurs because he gives up a rebound and fails to cover the puck.

Now, it certainly doesn’t help that Spencer Smallman knocks down a Stars forward right as Damiani picks up the rebound, but this is still a goal that Kochetkov would have liked to stop. No hate to Smallman, though. He has been excellent for the Wolves all season long and is currently riding a four game point streak.

This next clip highlights a concern about Kochetkov’s game that many scouts have had since his draft year. Kochetkov can struggle to track pucks that are shot from a distance and let in goals like this one.

But, as I mentioned in the tweet above, this has been less of a problem as Kochetkov has developed. The rebound control is, in my opinion, the biggest area in need of improvement if Kochetkov is to become an NHL goaltender.

It’s still a small sample, but there’s a lot to like about Kochetkov’s start with the Wolves. He has already shown signs of improvement and has surpassed LaFontaine, in my opinion. The Hurricanes have some tough decisions to make in net. If Makiniemi returns from injury soon, the Wolves will have four goaltenders on their active roster. There aren’t enough games remaining to give all four goalies a good amount of starts, and with the spacing of the AHL’s schedule, a goalie might go more than a week without a start. Kochetkov has proven that he belongs at this level and should continue to see at least one start a week for the Wolves as they get down the stretch.

The Hurricanes now have their potential goalie of the future developing right before our eyes, and it’s amazing to watch. Kochetkov is quickly becoming must-see TV for myself and other Hurricanes fans due to his electrifying style of play. He won’t always make a reverse pad stack or a spectacular glove save, but he never fails to entertain. I stand by my take that Kochetkov is the goalie of the future here, and the start Kochetkov is having with the Wolves only makes me more confident in that statement. It’s a great time to be a Carolina Hurricanes fan.