Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Unknown Goalies at the World Championships

Perhaps the biggest suprise in the World Championships so far has been the play of two goaltenders, Andrei Mezin of Belarus and Vitaliy Kolesnik of Kazakhstan. Neither were on the NHL radar before the tournament. Both have played extremely well behind weak teams that have allowed far too many shots on them, but both maintain low goals against averages and high saves percentages. Arguably, they have been the two best best goalies in the tournament so far.

Andrei Mezin is a well travelled goalie. In the 90's he played minor pro hockey in North America in every major league that existed at the time (AHL, IHL, ECHL, UHL and CoHL). He wasn't a standout at any point and was not drafted or signed by any NHL team. In 1998, he returned to Europe playing in the German league. He stayed there for three seasons. He has split his time between the Russian and Czech leagues since. It is only in his past couple seasons where he has started to put up really good numbers. He will turn 31 years old this summer, which makes him no longer a real NHL prospect. However, if he can play NHL hockey as well as he has played in the World Championships, there is little question that he could be a useful NHL goalie. His statistics can be found here.

Vitaliy Kolesnik is a far less travelled goalie. He has spent his career so far playing for a Kazakh team in a Russian league putting up some good numbers. This league is one step below the Russian elite league. He has played internationally for Kazakhstan several times in the World Junior Championships and later the World Championships. He will turn 26 this summer and is thus far undrafted in the NHL. His statistics can be found here.

Probably Kolesnik has a better chance at a meaningful NHL career since he is younger, although Mezin has played better so far in the World Championships. It is far to early to declare that either of these goalies could be NHL stars beased on only a handful of World Championship games, but they both appear to possess the ability. It probably helps that neither have been well scouted, so any potential holes in their games remain unknown to the players they are facing. If they were given a chance to play regularly in the NHL, these holes would be discovered and the longterm success or failure of these goalies would be based upon how well they can react to these scouting reports and continue to keep opposing players off balance.

If I was drafting for an NHL team, I would seriously consider asking Kolesnik if he was interested in coming to play in North America and invest a later round draft pick in him if he says "Yes".

Jan Lasak of Slovakia would be an even better option for any NHL team since Nashville apparently gave up their rights for him.
Lasak is hardly off the NHL radar screen seeing as he is a former 2nd round draft pick and he hasn't played as well in the World Championships so far, but I agree that he might be a better option. Afterall he has a longer track record as an NHL "prospect".
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