Two years ago, Igor and I visited Caps 2012 seventh round pick Sergey Kostenko in Reading, PA for an interview. Kostenko, who sadly is no longer with the Caps, previously played in Metallurg Novokuznetsk’s system in Russia and had a lot of great stories.
Kitov’s words made sense at time time. Before the season, I spoke to Caps associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig and the former netminder was not as high as I was on the 2012 seventh round pick. “He’s probably the lowest guy on the depth chart,” Kolzig said bluntly. “If he puts an attention to detail in his game, improves his work ethic, he would definitely pad the depth chart.”
Kostenko would then struggle through injuries, playing in only six games with the ECHL’s Reading Royals before being loaned to the Ontario Reign where he started another three. Kostenko traveled home to Russia at the end of the season.
Fast forward to this past week, when Kostenko’s name appeared on the Caps 2013 Development Camp roster. What gives?
Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirthrecently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.
On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.
Over the offseason the Hershey Bears saw several key veterans sign elsewhere, such as future AHL Hall of Famer Keith Aucoin, 2011-12 AHL leading scorer Chris Bourque, and fan-favorite enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The team also had to deal with a peculiar problem due to the lockout: two head coaches, Mark French and new Caps bench boss Adam Oates. Capitals general manager George McPhee mandated that Hershey learn Oates’ new system, so that the organization’s minor league players could be used to it by the time NHL games started being played. All this change has seen the team scuffle to a .500 record through 34 games this season (16-16-1-1).
But now things are starting to look up. Before it was announced that the lockout had been lifted, Hershey had been getting its best goaltending of the year from Braden Holtby, who was recently named AHL player of the month for December. Stan Galiev, who had been struggling with his transition from junior hockey, is starting to look more comfortable on the ice and more worthy of his #29 prospect ranking from Hockey Prospectus. The organization also has a surplus of quality goaltenders in the ECHL knocking at the door of the AHL: Philipp Grubauer and 2012 seventh-round pick Sergey Kostenko.
On Saturday, after the Bears’ 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators, I asked French if this is the best he’s seen Braden Holtby play, if the sky is the limit for Riley Barber, and if Caps fans should be worried about Galiev’s early season struggles.
Three months after having surgery to repair his wonky shoulder, Washington Capitals 7th-round pick Sergey Kostenko made his professional debut for the Reading Royals on Friday. And it went about as well as you’d expect. The 20-year-old Novokuznetsk-native made 25 saves and picked up the victory, despite showing some rustiness in the third period where he allowed three goals in seven minutes. The best part of Kostenko’s debut however, came in the second period when he picked up a secondary assist on a goal by Yannick Tifu. Um, awesome. Do all Russian goaltenders have offensive upside like this?
Anyways, help us congratulate Sergey on his big night by shooting him a nice tweet here: @kostenkosergey1!
“They take a very good care of the players here [in America],” Kostenko told RMNB’s Igor Kleyner during an interview in Reading, Pennsylvania, where Kostenko is rehabbing a shoulder injury with the ECHL’s Reading Royals. “Even the smallest things, like they asked me in Washington: ‘do you want to get your mask painted?’ And I said, ‘of course!'”
Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov has been in North America for parts of just three seasons, but he’s already had four head coaches, two broken noses (okay, the same nose broken twice), and has suffered through a benching that spanned the Caps’ entire 2011-12 playoff run.
Now, during a season Orlov should have started in Washington, he’s back with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, experiencing his first ever lockout.
On the first day of the lockout, Leonid Vaisfeld, general manager of Metallurg Novokuznetsk, expressed his interest in bringing Orlov home. “[Orlov] has a two-way deal,” Vaisfeld told Sports.ru. “So it’s up to Washington if they want to send him to the farm to learn English or let him come here, where I think it would be better for Dima’s development. As far as I understand he just wants to play at home.”
Way back in February of 2011, Orlov negotiated out of his contract with his KHL team to start his professional career early in Hershey. Now, while some of his friends are making big-time money playing in the KHL, Orlov– whose family is still in Russia– is staying the course in Hershey, doing everything the coaching staff has asked of him.
RMNB caught up with Orlov on Saturday before Hershey hosted the St. John’s Ice Caps (for whom Orlov’s best friend Alex Burmistrov plays). RMNB’s Igor Kleyner asked him about the possibility of going home, how his English is progressing, and what it’s like playing under a Hall of Fame coach. We also talked about what it’ll be like to play against his former teammate and good friend Alex Semin.
Kostenko, who was drafted 203rd overall in the 2012 draft, spent last year with Metallurg’s affiliate in the Russian junior hockey league, the MHL. His season was disappointing as he was unable to improve his prior season’s numbers or make the KHL team. He ended the year with 2.98 GAA, .897 Sv% and 15 wins in 40 outings (note: games that go to the shootout don’t count as wins or losses for a goaltender in the KHL). He also served on the Russian junior national team that won a silver medal at the 2012 WJC, but he didn’t see any ice time.