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Taking a deeper look at Pyotr Kochetkov

It’s not under ideal circumstances, but the future of the franchise in net gets his shot with the big club.

AHL: MAR 29 Chicago Wolves at Cleveland Monsters Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pyotr Kochetkov has been recalled by the Hurricanes, albeit under bittersweet circumstances. With Carolina’s starter, Frederik Andersen, leaving Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury, the Hurricanes were left needing a second goalie on the roster. Alex Lyon, who is normally tasked with being the team’s third goaltender, left Friday’s game a little over 10 minutes in due to an injury.

Beck Warm and Eetu Makiniemi are both done for the season, so this leaves Kochetkov as the lone goalie capable of handling the backup role. Kochetkov has been fantastic since he joined the Wolves, going 13-1-1 with a save percentage of .921 through his first 15 starts in North America.

This is obviously a big deal for the organization. Kochetkov is likely going to be the future of the franchise in net and will have high expectations placed on him. He has experience in the KHL as well as his stint in the AHL to back up the claims that he could be the goalie of the future. Will he be Cam Ward reincarnated? No. It’s definitely unfair to expect Kochetkov to carry the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup since he has a grand total of (checks notes) zero NHL games under his belt.

Will he even play? I’m not sure. Antti Raanta is going to be the team’s starter if Andersen is going to be out for a while, but Kochetkov could see a game or two before the season’s end. Kochetkov’s future is so bright, but what I don’t want to happen is have the fan base’s expectations for him get overblown based on a relatively small sample of AHL games.

I love Kochetkov, and I think he’s one of the top prospects in the pipeline, but I don’t want people to think he’ll be Martin Brodeur reincarnated. Just enjoy the moment, and even if there are some bumps along the way, know that we’re looking at the beginning of a very promising career.

Kochetkov’s Style of Play

Kochetkov reminds me of a roller coaster. It’s a lot of fun, and while there are some scary moments, you enjoy the whole experience. Kochetkov brings personality and excitement to a game that so often discourages those things. From trash talking the Iowa bench in his debut to nearly scoring against Texas, Kochetkov has shown a lot of hockey fans that hockey, by its nature, is fun.

For what it’s worth, I’m a terrible lip reader and even worse when it comes to Russian, but I don’t need to be an export to tell you that Kochetkov was fired up. “The Winter Soldier,” as fans have taken to naming him, has helped to stabilize the crease in Chicago, which was lacking depth after Eetu Makiniemi went down with a season-ending injury. Kochetkov has been dominant to start his AHL career. What’s more impressive is that he’s playing for a Wolves team that gives up a boatload of odd man rushes and breakaways and is still putting up great numbers.

In addition to being a fun personality, it’s been great watching Kochetkov bond with the team and slowly start to learn the English language and the North American game. I can’t imagine how difficult of a transition it has been for him, but he has handled things like a pro and been excellent for Chicago in the process. Now, let’s take a look at what makes Kochetkov such a good goaltender.

That’s a small example. What makes Kochetkov so intriguing is his puck playing. Very few goalies nowadays are good at playing the puck. In fact, I’d argue that there aren’t any NHL goaltenders better than Kochetkov at puck playing.

Now, the word “desperation” is tossed around a lot when a goalie is down and out. Kochetkov makes a lot of those desperation saves look routine because of how frequently he can bail his teammates out. Take a look at this clip.

Here’s an example of Kochetkov’s quickness. “Athleticism” is another term that gets tossed around too much, so I’ll call this agility. If you listen to Hurricanes broadcasts regularly, you’ll hear Tripp Tracy talking about explosiveness with the push. That’s what happens here.

Kochetkov takes away so much space in an instant, taking away the entire area of net that the Milwaukee forward would have had to shoot at. So, we’ve seen Kochetkov and what he can do in the AHL. It’s my belief that he’s still a little ways away from the NHL and that some more experience at the AHL level would be good for him, but getting to see him with the NHL team should give us a good idea of where he’s at in his development.

Right now, I’m seeing a goalie that is gaining confidence with every shift. He has made an impressive impact in such a short time with the Wolves and has already become a fan favorite. If Kochetkov gets a start, it’ll be an exciting time for the Hurricanes organization. He could become the first member of Carolina’s 2019 draft class to play in an NHL game, after all.