The Capitals turned some heads at the NHL draft last month when they took Russian goaltending prospect Sergey Kostenko with their final pick of the seventh round.
When it was announced the Capitals selected Kostenko with the 203rd overall pick, the collective response on the floor of the Consol Energy Center was, Whos he?
The answer may come in the next few years.
According to a report in Russias Sport-Express and detailed here, Kostenko has voided his contract with Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the Russian Junior League, paving the way for a possible entry-level contract with the Capitals.
Kostenko, 19, was first noticed by Caps goaltending coach Dave Prior a few years ago during a tournament on Prince Edward Island. At the time, Kostenko was too young to be drafted but he left a positive impression on Prior.
Kostenko served as a backup for his Russian team last season, recording a 3.41 GAA and .884 save percentage in 19 games. Prior said he hadnt forgotten about Kostenko and when he saw the 5-foot-11, 187-pound netminder play well in the Canada-Russia Challenge last season he made a mental note of it for the upcoming 2012 draft.
By many NHL teams standards hes probably too small and so he was available, Prior said. At that position in the draft he was worth the risk in my mind and in Caps director of scouting Ross Mahoneys mind. So we took the chance.
Before they selected Kostenko the Caps asked him, through director of media relations Sergey Kocharov, if he was interested in playing in North America and were assured he was.
The Caps called me the day before the draft, so they sort of gave me a hint, Kostenko said through Russian interpreter Igor Kleyner, but it was still a surprise.
Through some frantic work by the Capitals administrative offices, Kostenko was provided a visa and attended the final few days of the teams development camp two weeks ago. It marked the first time Prior had seen Kostenko since that Canada-Russia Challenge and he was impressed by his athleticism.
Hes very quick, very mobile and competitive, Prior said. When the game was going in the wrong direction, I didnt see any change in his game. There was still compete. Hes a goaltender that is typical of what I like in Washington Capitals goaltenders.
Kostenko hails from the same hometown as Capitals rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and played three seasons in Russia with Caps forward prospect Stanislav Galiev.
Hes a good goalie, Galiev said. Hes quiet, shy. He doesnt speak English, so it must be hard for him, but Im doing my job translating. Its a different rink, more shots and more North American style. Im petty sure Olie Kolzig is going to help him a lot.
If the Caps sign Kostenko to a pro contract he likely would begin his career sixth on the teams depth chart, behind Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, Dany Sabourin, Philipp Grubauer and prospect Brandon Anderson.
In that case, Kostenko would likely start next season as a backup to Anderson with the Reading Royals of the East Coast League.