This week we’re asking a big question on Prospect Watch: Is Sergei Ivanov the next great CBJ netminder? Ivanov is very young, but early returns on the late round draft pick are looking pretty positive.
The general rule of thumb with drafting goaltenders is that it’s mostly a bit of a crapshoot. Goalies develop at different paces, so the guy who looks really good right now, might find himself passed up by someone who isn’t as polished, but is more athletic. Finding goalies at the draft is more about projections than anything else.
Some teams handle this by taking a late round flyer on a goalie every year, or every other year, or every few years. We’ve seen this before with the Blue Jackets taking a third round shot on a 20 year old Latvian goaltender named Elvis Merzlikins. Sometimes it works out. Or, there are plenty of cases like Oscar Dansk – taken high in the second round, only to wind up playing six career NHL games – far fewer than the guy you picked in the very next round (Joonas Korpisalo).
In the case of Sergei Ivanov, the Blue Jackets seem to have found a rising asset. Though undersized (5-11, 165 pounds), he’s an athletic goaltender who has great lateral movement and puck stopping abilities. They snatched up the young goaltender’s rights by trading for a 5th-round (#138 overall) pick at the 2022 Draft, a sneaky move considering the body of work he’s put in so far in his career.
Last season, he spent the bulk of his time with SKA 1946 St Petersburg (SKA’s junior team) in the MHL, where he had a 14-7-4 record, .928 save percentage, and a sparkling 2.17 goals against average. He was just a little bit better in the playoffs, with a .931 save percentage and 12 wins in 16 games played, winning the Kharlamov Cup as league champions.
He’s also been dynamic for Russia at the international level, and would have been a contender for a spot on their World Junior team this year if not for the political situation in Europe. He last played for Russia at the World U18 tournament in 2021 – posting a 4-1-0 record along with a .913 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average.
This year, he’s already spent some time in a KHL crease and looked very good in spot duty, posting a .957 save percentage and a 1-0-0 record so far. While his VHL (second tier) numbers don’t look very good, he’s showing that he can stop pucks at Russia’s highest level when given the opportunity. This is not dissimilar to Daniil Tarasov, who is currently posting better numbers in the NHL than he has in the AHL.
At just 18 years old, Ivanov is still very early in his career, and signed through next season in Russia. Though we can’t yet say he’ll be a great – or even good – NHL goaltender, he’s an interesting prospect to watch. It’s hard to tell when or if he might come over to North America, but his development so far has been solid and his value is rising – which is exactly what you hope for in a late round draft pick.