Nick Bobrov made it a point last year to keep an eye on the Mamonty Yugry, a Russian Junior League (MHL) team based in Khanty Mansi in western Siberia.
The Montreal Canadiens’ co-director of amateur scouting, working remotely due to the socio-political circumstances of his native Russia, undoubtedly spied on goaltender Yegor Savragin, later selected in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers. Zavragin was expected to share his net with Alexander Dyubin this season (2022-2023).
Then Dyubin injured his ankle. A man named Yevgeni Volokhin, who was supposed to spend the year in the U18 squad, then got an unexpected opportunity in the Russian junior division.
“He started playing really well and suddenly we had Volokhin in the starting position at the beginning of the season,” the organization’s general manager Sergei Gusev, a former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman, said by phone. From that moment on, Bobrov was on his trail.”
While it was difficult to find video of Volokhin or reports about him in the moments following his selection by the Canadiens in the fifth round in 2023 (144th overall), that’s not surprising. Volokhin wasn’t even supposed to play in the MHL last year. He had barely emerged from Russia’s shadow and seized an opportunity he had not expected.
“I had gotten a few calls about him, from the Canadiens and the New York Rangers [l’ancienne équipe pour laquelle travaillait Bobrov, NDLR], mentions Gusev. Should he be drafted? We were not sure.”
A first generation of hockey players
Only recently, the city of Khanty-Mansiysk, the capital of the Khanty-Mansi district, plunged into the world of ice hockey. The structures of HC Yugra were established in 2006.
“About fifteen years ago there was no ice hockey here at all. Then suddenly they opened a school for children and founded a club,” explains Gusev.
So Volokhin doesn’t come from a hockey family, but not at all. His father works for the emergency number in Russia, the emergency number there, 911.
In this newly opened ice hockey school, the HK Ugra, Volokhin was discovered by Dmitry Mezencev, who now looks after the CH candidates as a goalkeeping coach.
“The first quality I liked about him was his mentality,” remembers Mezencev. In my opinion, this is a crucial factor in a goalkeeper’s success. At that time he was not very tall, but he was very active in front of his net. Now he has very good size and athleticism, in addition to this great strength of character.
A beautiful project
Both Bobrov and Martin Lapointe used the word “potential” to describe the appeal of selecting the enigmatic Volokhin. But what makes this potential about the Russian goalkeeper so exciting?
“It is difficult to isolate a single element,” Mezencev hesitates. As I mentioned, he has good size and athleticism, but he also understands the game well and can hold his ground under pressure when things get tight.
As Guillaume Lefrançois of The press Jeff Gorton asked which CH hopes in the NCAA and Europe were most exciting to him, Among other things, he mentioned Volokhin, a sign that he is popular in the organization’s offices.
Mezencev admits that Volokhin “is just at the beginning of his journey” and that “some things need to be corrected in the near future.” He still thinks big for his student.
“I think he has everything you need to one day fight with the best players and the best goalkeepers in the best league in the world,” said the coach. Of course it’s too early to say, but he can become a good goalkeeper.”
The battle between Volokhin and Savragin promises to be interesting in the coming months or even years. At the moment, Zavragin surpasses him in the hierarchy, having started this season in the VHL (Russian second division, equivalent of the American League).
“Zavragin is more mature at the moment, I would say. For him, the job as a goalkeeper is a given, which he achieved thanks to his talent. Volokhin gained ground thanks to his work ethic. He is a hard worker,” explains Gusev, the organization’s general director.
He rejected SKA’s offer
The St. Petersburg SKA, the richest team in the continental ice hockey scene (KHL), tried in vain to seduce Volohkin by making him an offer last offseason.
An offer that Volokhin declined well, despite the prestige of the SKA, according to Gusev.
“SKA has so many goalkeepers in its organization. They simply want to take advantage of all the good hopes. I would say our goalkeeping coach is much better than theirs. Volokhin will have more opportunities with us and will learn more with us than with SKA.”
This cannot be confirmed, but it could also be speculated that Nick Bobrov’s father, a recruiter for this wealthy organization, played a role in this attempt. A hypothesis, nothing more and nothing less.
In large amounts
- 6 feet 3 inches and 168 pounds.
- Catch from the left
- 5th round pick (144th overall) by the Canadiens in 2023
9-2-3 | 1.57 | .937 with the Mamonty Yugry in the MHL
6-1-2 | 1.63 | .945 with the Mamonty Yugry in the MHL
4-0-0 | 1.24 | .953 with Khanty-Mansiysk Yugra in the VHL
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