The Flames have been bitten by the “Goalie of the Future” curse a few more times than many of us would like to admit. From Brent Krahn to Jon Gillies, the hype train has left the station many times, but hasn’t quite made its way to Calgary.
With full admittance that this may be like all those other times, we may have ourselves something different this time around. The Flames have had great goalies, but none that have started a season unbeaten, and been promoted from the junior level to the top professional league in his country in such a short time.
Enter Daniil Chechelev. Taken in the fourth round with the pick from Buffalo that sent Michael Frolik to the Sabres, Chechelev was relatively unknown going into the draft. Standing 6’2″, Chechelev is a bigger goaltender, around the same height as David Rittich. An overager who was unranked by any of the major ranking services and having played his entire career in Russia, Chechelev was going to be a bit of a gamble relative to other goalies.
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A cursory glance at his save percentages the past two years look promising when comparing the values to those we’ve come to expect in North America. However, a .920 SV% that would be extremely good on this side of the pond is actually pretty mediocre. Right now, 17 goalies in the KHL, 43 in the VHL, and 47 in the MHL all have at least .920 SV%.
So, Chechelev’s MHL numbers really do not jump off the page., and are honestly pretty marginal. It is not as though he was playing behind a particularly poor team either, as his team, Russkie Vityazi Checkhov, made the playoffs in 2018-19 and finished just outside the playoffs in 2019-20. Both teams were over .500, and Chechelev was the starting goalie both years.
While these numbers do not stand out, the Flames clearly saw something in him that made them take him with a relatively high pick. So far, he has not disappointed. Starting the season, he went 10-0 in the MHL, allowing just 18 goals in that time. He posted a .943 SV% and 1.89 GAA. He is still ranked as the best goaltender in the league with a minimum of 10 games played.
Clearly too good for the MHL, he was promoted to the VHL’s HK Ryazan and played four games to this point. While a very small sample size, he is currently sitting fifth in the league among goalies with at least two games played. Keep in mind that this league and the MHL are both goal heavy leagues. Putting up numbers like this are very good.
With his impressive performance, is would appear that he has been promoted to the KHL, playing with Vityaz Podolsk. While he has not featured in the league yet, it is only a matter of time before he makes his first appearance in the second best professional hockey league in the world.
If he can continue to put up the impressive numbers in the KHL that he has in the two lower Russian leagues, he is going to be one of the most exciting goalie prospects that the Flames have in their system. But even if he does not, and needs the rest of the season in the VHL to continue developing, he is still just 19 years old. He was considered to be a number of years away from the NHL, and to have him progressing this quickly isn’t just a great sign for the Flames, it may accelerate his timeline in terms of crossing over to the AHL or NHL.
Perhaps even more impressive than his numbers is the fact that the Flames’ scouting staff was able to find this guy and believe in him enough to draft him in the fourth round. He probably won’t remain undefeated all season, but getting off to as hot a start as he has is still a great sign for the team.
Before we start calling Chechelev the “Goalie of the Future”, let’s see how he performs on the biggest stage in Europe. If you haven’t been paying attention to him yet, now’s the time to start.
In the meantime, please enjoy these clips of Chechelev being a brick wall in the MHL.
What are your thoughts on Chechelev? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Photo credits: Kuzmin Yury/KHL