|On the National Team his destiny brought him together with Tretiak, the first
Russian goalie drafted into the NHL, on the team – with Yevgeniy Ryabchikov,
the only Russian goalie drafted in the first round. But the 20 year old goalie
of the Russian National Team, Ilya Bryzgalov, will reach the NHL his own way.
Before I start the tale of the best Russian Young goalie, I will offer some
numbers. For the entire history of Russian Hockey, NHL teams drafted 400 Russian
players, from whom goalies were less then five percent, or 19. There aren’t
that many of them not to mention them all (especially observe overall draft
1983: Vladislav Tretiak (CSKA – Montreal), #138
1989: Sergei Mylnikov (Traktor – Quebec) #127, Arturs
Irbe (Dynamo, Riga – Minnesota) #196.
1991: Yevgeniy Belosheykin (SKA – Edmonton), #232, Andrei
Trefilov (Dynamo Moscow – Calgary) #261
1992: Nikolai Khabibulin (CSKA – Winnipeg) #204
1993: Mikhail Shtalenkov (Dynamo Moscow – Anaheim),
Sergei Tkachenko (Sokol Kiev – Vancouver), #280
1994: Yevgeniy Ryabchikov (Molot – Boston), #21, Vitali
Yeremeyev (Torpedo, Ust Kamenogorsk – Rangers), Yevgeniy Nabokov (Dynamo
Moscow – San Jose),
1995: Igor Karpenko (Sokol Kiev – Anaheim) #185
1996: Denis Khlopotnov (CSKA – Florida) #209
1997: Andrei Fomichev (Dynamo Moscow – Edmonton) #231
1998: Alexei Volkov (Soviet Wings – Los Angeles) #76,
1999: Yevgeniy Konstantinov (Ak Bars – Tampa Bay) #67,
Vadim Tarasov (Metallurg, Novokuznetsk – Montreal)
2000: Ilya Bryzgalov (Lada – Anaheim), #44, Alexander
Polukeev (SKA—Tampa Bay) #233
The journey ended different for our goalies: Tretiak finished his career too
early, though Montreal called him five years after Vladislav hung up his skates.
Belosheikin hung himself, Mylnikov, Irbe, Trefilov, Khabibulin and Nabokov secured
spots in the NHL, and Kosntantinov and Yeremeyev this summer signed their first
professional contracts in North America. Byzgalov could have become the third,
but decided not to rush things. Bryzgalov is an amazing goalie. He is cocky
in hockey and does not bow before anybody. Imagine that this person was able
to convince Vladislav Tretiak himself that he is the number one goalie on the
Russian National Team, and in Lada was able to beat out the Canadian Vensan
Rendau, on him all of LADA’s prayers rested for 2 years. In any case,
everything in it’s due time.
Year 2000 ended up the break through one for the young hockey player. However,
for that it was necessary for him to be in the right place at the right time.
This place for Bryzgalov ended up Spartak Moscow. Though it is not a very interesting
place and is only in the Upper League of Russian hockey, which far away from
the Super League, not even talking about the NHL. However in Spartak nearby
was a needed person. Good person, and the coach of the Russian National Team.
Overall, Alexander Yakushev noticed our hero and when Ilya hurried back to Togliatti
he christened him and said: “I hope we will meet on the National Team?!”
Ilya ended up a very capable student, and even too capable. While playing for
Russia’s Junior National Team he earned a silver medal and knocked on
the door of the nation’s main team. While Yakushev has been saying all
season that starting goalie for the Russian National team at the World Championships
was Yegor Podomatsky (St. Petersburg fans hoped that it would be the local Maxim
Sokolov), at the final training camp Bryzgalov was able to convince the team’s
goalie coach, Vladislav Tretyak that he and only he is capable of defending
Russia’s net. In addition, the methods of “convincing” differed.
From the “Podomatsky is not ready today, I am playing better” to
the quite convincing demonstrations at practices of his abilities and work ethic.
In any case, the fans in St. Petersburg were a bit surprised when they saw the
tall Bryzgalov coming out onto the ice after Bure. To be blunt the Russian NHLers
did not trust the young goalie (as they did not really trust Podomatsky either).
They always emphasized at the post tournament interviews that the goalie let
them down, though Bryzgalov did not let in that many goals, but Bure and Yashin
simply did not score for some reason.
After the conclusion of the tournament, Tretiak, while commenting about the
11th place finish said that “ Any goalie has the right to let in 3 goals
in a game. Bryzgalov did not even let in that many. However we still lost. What
does this indicate? Only the weakness of our forwards”. He also added
that that if he had a chance to replay the tournament over again, he (Tretiak)
would still recommend to Yakushev and Bilyaletdinov to put Bryzgalov in the
net, a player practically unknown to anyone amongst the St. Petersburg crowd.
In any case, in his short career, Bryzgalov was already able to win a spot
not from some Podomatsky, but from a Canadian. The first NHLer – Canadian
in Russia, Vensan Riendo remembers: “In Lada during the 2000 season, along
with me played a crazy kid. When he returned to the team from Spartak, I right
away understood that it is not good news for me and Ryabchikov (laughing). There
were now three equally valuable goalies on the team, though Brygalov was only
20”. In any case, the witnesses allege that Bryzgalov won the position
from Riendo in a very original way. When Lada was losing and Riendo was letting
in 3-4 goals, Bryzgalov did not wait for a call from the coach and put on his
helmet, glove and grabbed the stick and leaned over the boards, hinting, that
is it, your time is up Vensan. Later Lada’s coaches confessed that Bryzgalov’s
behavior seriously disgruntled them. Though, everything was logical, simply
Bryzgalov was ahead of his time, though in a very rude manner.
This year Bryzgalov was drafted. He caught Anaheim’s eye and 44th number
is high in the draft. From our goalies only Yevgeniy Ryabchikov, Brygalov current
partner at Lada, was drafted higher. But I feel with my heard that Yevgeniy
won’t have much of a chance to defend’s Lada’s net this year.
Bryzgalov was acknowledged to be the top rookie of the Super League last season
and decided to stay another year in Russia. He stayed to play and Anaheim can
wait, though Ilya is not losing his baseball hat that has the Duck’s emblem.
As shown by the past, our goalies do not open up in the NHL early in their career.
Also, at 20 not everyone can make the National Team.