Capitals goaltending guru Mitch Korn likes to talk – a lot.
And while that may be a good thing for most of the goaltenders he works with, it was an enormous obstacle for Capitals top goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov, who on Tuesday took the ice for the first time at Kettler for the start of the club’s annual development camp.
The only goaltender taken in the first round of the 2015 draft at 22nd overall, Samsonov spent two hours on the ice, where he received animated instructions from Korn with the help of Capitals senior director of communications Sergey Kocharov.
“You’ve got a guy from another country who’s never been here, who speaks no English, who’s in culture shock,” Korn said. “He just practiced harder than he’s ever practiced in his life in one day.”
“It was really hard,” Samsonov said through Kocharov. “So many shots.”
Korn may not have liked every tendency he saw from Samsonov on Tuesday, but realizes he’s not going to change much in five on-ice sessions.
“I’m not going to pass judgment on one day,” he said. “One day certainly isn’t going to make a month or a career. It was an adjustment for him, it was a big adjustment. He’s a very big guy, a physical guy who fills a lot of net. But it’s a whole different culture. The level of intensity is way different here than where he comes from.”
When the Capitals drafted Samsonov last year, they were enamored by his size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and his cat-like reflexes. But in his first full season with Magnitogorsk Mettalurg of the KHL, Samsonov played in just 19 games, posting a 2.04 GAA and .925 save percentage. He also played in six KHL playoff games and posted a 2.29 GAA and .916 SP.
Samsonov has two more years remaining on his KHL contract and both he and the Capitals would like to see the 19-year-old goalie play more KHL games next season.
“I still have a two-year contract so we’ll see,” Samsonov said. “I hope to play in the best league in the world.”
“From our end we would like to see him play more,” Korn said. “True No. 1 goalies play a lot.”
Speaking of goalies, the Capitals will be looking to sign one when free agency rolls around on Friday. With the anticipated departures of Hershey goalies Justin Peters and Dan Ellis via free agency, the Caps will be looking to sign an experienced goalie to a two-way contract and make him the starter in Hershey ahead of Vitek Vanecek and No. 3 on the Caps’ depth chart in the event Holtby or Grubauer is injured next season.
The Caps also will look to add a goaltender who can back up recently signed Adam Carlson, a 6-foot-3, 180-pounder out of Mercyhurst who is expected to be the starter with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays next season.
“He works very hard,” Korn said of Carlson, 22. “He doesn’t stop, he pushes through. He’s a big goalie and he’s extremely quick and athletic for a guy his size. He’s very green. We wanted to find, much like Pheonix Copley, a diamond in the rough, a guy willing to worek and grow and climb the ladder.
"I’m a big believer in late bloomers. I’m a big believer in earning everything. I was very happy with his practice today. He battled like a son of a gun at times. We ground them to salt today.”
MORE CAPITALS: CAPS PROSPECTS ARRIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT CAMP