Kostento saves a shot against the QMJHL All-Stars this winter. (Photo by QMJHL)
In the last three NHL Drafts, the Washington Capitals have selected European goaltenders past the fourth round. In 2010, it was German product Philipp Grubauer. In 2011, it was Norwegian Steffen Soberg. This year, it was Russian Sergei Kostenko.
Washington selected Kostenko, who grew up playing with current Capital Dmitry Orlov in their hometown of Novokuznetsk, with the 203rd overall pick on Saturday. Kostenko, 19, spent last season playing with Novokuznetsk’s minor league team, where he posted a 2.47 GAA and .897 save percentage in 40 games. So what did that Capitals like about him?
“Very athletic, very competitive, we have seen him before in the past,” said Director of Amateur Scouting Ross Mahoney on Saturday. “He played well with Russia’s under 20 team when they came across and did the Subway Series, basically ending up as the third goalie on the World Junior team. We’ve been tracking him for three years.”
“They [the scouts] just saw something there, they think he can be a National Leaguer,” George McPhee said. “He wasn’t on the list, for central scouting, and we got him on the list at the end of the second round. They had to research him to make sure he would be eligible for drafting. We got him approved before the seventh round and then we took him. Sergey [PR Director Sergey Kocharov] had a conversation with him yesterday, really vouched for his character, said he would love to come over. We thought it was well worth the pick.”
The Capitals have had great success drafting goaltenders outside of North America in the past, as Olaf Kolzig, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth were born overseas. Grubauer, who has yet to play one game for the Capitals, was stellar in his first professional season this year, posting a 2.22 GAA and .918 save percentage for South Carolina in the ECHL. Grubauer’s performance earned him a selection to the all-rookie team in that league and verified his selection, as goaltending coach Dave Prior had him near the top of his rankings during the 2010 draft.
Even more encouraging is the fact that Kostenko seems to want to come over to North America as soon as possible and get ready to compete in the different style of game – something some of the Capitals’ other Russian prospects, like Evgeny Kuznetsov, have not.
With Washington still deep at the goaltending position organizationally, this pick seems to be just another addition to the stockpile that has a chance to work out. At the second most important position on the ice, you can do a lot worse than continually adding low-risk, potentially high-reward goaltenders - especially raw, athletic ones that simply need to be honed.Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals and the NHL Draft for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.