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, 2018).
At #21, our first goalie!
Much like many of the European goalies in the Predators’ system, Volkov bounced around several Russian teams in the 2017-18 campaign. He suited up for the St. Petersburg organization in the KHL, VHL, MHL, and NMHL for a total of 28 games. After a stunning 25-game performance for SKA-1946, Volkov was named the MHL’s Goaltender of the Year back in May.
He desperately needs solid time in the VHL this coming season.
By The Numbers
2017-18 was Volkov’s third 15+ game season in the MHL, and he finished third in goals-against average and fourth in save-percentage among goalies who played 10 or more games. He continued this strong play through 10 postseason games as SKA lost to Yaroslavl in the MHL Championship.
At 20-years-old, Volkov is behind the curve still playing in Russia’s top junior league. The 2018-19 season will be imperative for him to establish himself as a top-tier goaltender in the VHL as he has in the MHL.
For the past few years, the SKA depth chart in net has been backed up. Now, Volkov has some room to improve. In the KHL, Mikko Koskinen is headed to Edmonton meaning that net belongs to Igor Shestyorkin and Alexei Melnichuk. Nikita Lysenkov and Sergei Korobov, his peers in the MHL, are moving on. This means that the net is there in the VHL for Volkov to battle it out with Nikita Bogdanov who started 33 games in the VHL last season.
Bogdanov, Shestyorkin, and others (including Andrei Vasilevsky) were not established starters in the VHL until age 20, but Volkov lacks some of the natural talent of the latter two. Although statistically he seems to belong, he has an uphill battle to climb.
I really love clips like the one above that show technique and not just highlight-reel saves. Volkov has great patience here with the puck behind the net and tracks it well as the opposition switches sides down low. You’ll also notice he makes a effort to turn his paddle out early in the play in order to take a stab at any passes that come to the slot.
Above, Volkov does his best to work around a massive lack of defensive screen-clearing and gets lucky as the shot goes wide. I like how he re-positions himself at the top of the crease; it’s aggressive but his glove-hand stays too lazy. Additionally, he won’t have time like that to re-gain his stance on the opposite post in higher levels of play.
Since the Russian leagues do not have a transfer agreement with the NHL, the Predators hold Volkov’s rights indefinitely.
I like Volkov as an underrated prospect in the organization. I doubt he has the talent to be an NHL starting goaltender, but I am curious to see what kind of name he can make for himself - particularly in Russia. Because, as of now, he is make quite the case for himself.