It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old.
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2017).
At #23, our first goalie, Konstantin Volkov.
The young Russian goalie was seen as an “off-the-board” pick back in 2016, which is usually a polite way off saying, “what the hell is this team doing?” In this case it was mostly due to lack of knowledge about him. To this day, there still isn’t much on Volkov, but, in my eyes, his stock is quickly rising.
When considering future with the franchise, Volkov has shot up to third place, behind Rinne and Saros, on the organizational depth chart. Anders Lindback, Matt O’Connor, and Marek Mazanec are not expected to be future solutions to the position, so that leaves Volkov as the next in line. Although its likely Karel Vejmelka makes his way to North America before Volkov, the latter has started to make a name for himself overseas.
In his draft year, Volkov played 17 games for SKA-1946 St. Petersburg of the Molodezhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL), a top major junior league in Russia, and posted a 2.33 goals-against average (GAA) and a .902% save percentage (SV%). He also spent six games that season with SKAA-Varyagi Vsevolozhsk in the MHL B, one tier lower. This past season, however, Volkov broke out. In 36 regular season games for SKA-1946, he posted a 1.74 GAA and a .934 SV%. His numbers regressed in the playoffs where he posted a 2.51 GAA with a .903 SV% in eight contests. His season performance, however, awarded him as the MHL’s Best Goaltender for the 2016-17 campaign.
The main positive on Volkov’s game is his size: he stands at 6’3” and 200+ pounds. At the time he was drafted, Preds’ scout Martin Bakula said “He is a big goalie that moves very well for his size.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but there isn’t much out there on Volkov. His stats this season are eye-popping and it looks like it might earn him a roster spot in the VHL (the league a tier below the KHL) according to @RUSProspects.
Volkov, #90, makes his first challenging save around the 21:00 mark. He squares up with the puck carrier once it’s clear there will be no pass, quickly drops to the butterfly, deflects the rebound into the corner, and re-establishes his position.
Around 22:10, Volkov is caught behind poor defensive play. He tracks the puck well as the play develops and ultimately doesn’t have to face a shot. Regardless, he shows his ability to push across the crease quickly in a hybrid position. Around 25:40, Volkov gives up a goal mostly attributed to strong traffic in front off a faceoff. Around 1:14:30, Volkov tracks the puck around the zone then uses his quick push from a butterfly position to stand-up to adjust to the second shot attempt.
Overall, Volkov uses his size well. He shows a tendency for traditional positioning more than some goalies, but is light on his skates. He doesn’t show overwhelming athleticism, but he usually doesn’t need to.
Volkov certainly has a long way to go. A step up to a professional league next season will be helpful, but it could be a few years before he steps foot in North America. As said before, anticipate Vejmelka to come overseas before Volkov does, if at all. That being said, professional hockey as a 20 year old is a promising look for the Russian.
Volkov has yet to sign an Entry-Level Contract with Nashville. That’s not unusual at all considering it would likely signify his North American debut. His rights are under Nashville’s control until the summer of 2020.
All stats courtesy of eliteprospects.com