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About Last Season: Pyotr Kochetkov

The Russian rookie kept taking steps forward as the Hurricanes’ goalie of the future this past season, and the goalie picture for 2023-24 sets up a low-pressure situation for him.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New Jersey Devils Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Pyotr Kochetkov 2022-23 By The Numbers

  • Age: 24
  • NHL seasons: 2
  • Stats: 12-7-5, 2.44 GAA, .909 save percentage, four shutouts in 24 games played, 23 starts
  • Playoff stats: 0-0-1, .818 save percentage, 6.14 GAA in one game played, 0 starts

Pyotr Kochetkov continued to demonstrate why he’s viewed as the Hurricanes’ goalie of the future in 2022-23, making a career-high 23 starts. While his season was a mixed bag overall, when he’s on, he’s on, and that ability to be a future No. 1 goalie shone through, particularly when he was called upon to step up with Frederik Andersen injured.

In all of the hoopla of the tooth-and-nail battle with the New Jersey Devils in the second half of the season, and the Hurricanes’ subsequent run to the Eastern Conference Final, it’s been somewhat forgotten that Kochetkov played a pivotal role in the Hurricanes winning a third straight division title last year.

Kochetkov was a big reason the Hurricanes did not lose a game in regulation in December of 2022, as the Russian rookie went 7-0-1 in eight starts on the month, racking up a .939 save percentage and 1.62 goals-against average with a pair of shutouts in the month. He was also strong when first called up towards the end of November, with a 3-1-0 mark in four starts.

In fact, in the Hurricanes’ 17-game point streak that stretched from late November into early January, which included a franchise-record 11-game winning streak, Kochetkov was the goalie of record in 10 games. That stretch allowed the Hurricanes to overtake the Devils for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, and keep it for the rest of the season.

Kochetkov hit a bit of a rookie wall in January and was subsequently sent back to the AHL with Andersen and Antti Raanta at full health, and, other than a brief cameo in March and one relief appearance in the game 3 debacle against New Jersey in the second round, that was where he stayed.

What’s next?

But clearly, the Hurricanes saw the progress they wanted to see from Kochetkov after his promising cup of coffee in the regular season and playoffs the year before. So much so, in fact, that, in November, before he even entered the best month of his career so far, Carolina signed him to a four-year contract extension with a $2-million AAV.

That was a tidy piece of business for the Hurricanes, locking Kochetkov into what’s either still a very reasonable contract for a backup or half of a 1A/1B tandem, or an absolute steal if he keeps taking steps forward and becomes the true workhorse No. 1 goalie the team hopes he will. Potentially having a high-level player at a premium position locked in at a bargain rate is a big deal for a team in a Stanley Cup window. The Hurricanes just gave Sebastian Aho a big contract extension, and he won’t be the last player to get one. Every dollar they can save elsewhere helps.

So, where is Kochetkov heading into the upcoming season? Likely in a similar position to where he was last year, with the Hurricanes re-signing both Andersen and Raanta this past offseason (Andersen got two years, Raanta one). And that’s just fine. Due to injuries, the Hurricanes have needed at least three goalies the past two seasons, and there’s no need to rush a player with 25 NHL starts to his name into doubling his work load, potentially prematurely.

Now, that’s not to say that, if Kochetkov takes another step forward, he can’t seize one of the Hurricanes’ top-two goaltending slots for next season. With Andersen and Raanta both taking pay cuts, the Hurricanes are still spending less on the three goalies than they did at any point last season.

Raanta is actually the low man on the salary totem pole with a $1.5-million AAV, so, if Kochetkov is ready for a bigger workload, the veteran Finn could take Kochetkov’s place as the No. 3 goal/frequent healthy scratch, and his even-keel demeanor suggests that wouldn’t cause problems off the ice.

If Kochetkov needs a little more seasoning, or Andersen and Raanta are still the top two and the Hurricanes want to get their youngster some starts at the AHL level, they’re free to do so, as Kochetkov will still be waiver exempt all season. Even though the Canes won’t have an AHL affiliate, any organization without its own top goalie prospect to groom would likely be more than happy to have Kochetkov play on the farm, and Don Waddell said on July 1 that the team already has options for loaning him out.

So, the Hurricanes will enter next season with depth and insurance at goalie, something they’ve needed in recent years. Kochetkov has the opportunity to seize the reins as a full-time part of the NHL tandem, but, with Andersen and Raanta both back, it’s not a necessity that he do so. Goalie development is rarely linear, and it’s a wise approach for the Hurricanes to give themselves the option to move slowly with Kochetkov. With four years on his deal, there’s no real urgency for him to take on a much bigger workload yet if he’s not ready.

What say you, Canes fans? How did you feel about the strides Pyotr Kochetkov took this past season, and what do you want to see from him in 2023-24?