When the Washington Capitals re-signed Ilya Samsonov to a one year contract extension worth $2 million a message was sent to the young Russian. He was re-signed to a bridge deal to prove that he belongs as the number one starter. It will be a position battle to watch this training camp, who gets the start on opening night Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers?
Ilya Samsonov had a solid rookie season going 16-6-2 with a 2.55 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He missed the bubble due to an ATV accident. He came back and had a rocky 2021 season both on and off the ice.
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Samsonov tested postive for COVID-19 early in the season and landed on the protocols list twice. The second time was a result of discipline from head coach Peter Laviolette when Samsonov and Evgeny Kuznetsov were both late to a team function in New York.
Samsonov finish the season with a 13-4-1 record with a 2.69 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. In the playoffs he went 0-3 with a 2.99 goals against average and a .899 save percentage.
Samsonov had two shutouts last season and Game 3 of the first round against the Boston Bruins marked his playoff debut. On that contest on May 19, Samsonov stopped 40 of 43 shots. In his rookie season, Samsonov had a shutout and had a stretch where he won 11 straight games from Nov. 30, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2020. He tied George Hainsworth for the second longest win streak by a rookie in NHL history. He did it back in 1926-27.
During that stretch, Samsonov recorded a 1.73 goals against average and a .936 save percentage, the lowest goals against average and the second highest save percentage among all goalies during that span. He also became the first rookie goaltender in NHL history to win his first five career starts.
Samsonov was selected in the first round at 22nd overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Caps were confident at the time he would someday fill the shoes of Braden Holtby. They were so confident in the young Russian netminder that they decided to let Holtby walk last offseason.
Samsonov won’t be the only restricted free agent at season’s end. Vitek Vanecek will have a lot to prove as well after the Caps traded back for him and the two will run it back for another season. Who will come out on top and be sealed as starter of the future? It is one of the top storylines of next season.