Caps rookie Ilya Samsonov calm, reading the game well

Chris Lingebach
October 10, 2019 - 8:11 pm

Ilya Samsonov played with poise in his Capitals debut, a good sign from Washington's first-round pick in 2015.

The Capitals made the choice to go with 22-year-old Samsonov as Braden Holtby's backup this season over Pheonix Copley, Holtby's backup last season, who the Caps placed on waivers last week. Copley surprisingly cleared waivers and has since rejoined the Hershey Bears.

Samsonov managed the Caps to a 2-1 victory over the Islanders last Friday, allowing the lone goal on 26 shots against, good for a .962 save percentage.

"Very calm goalie," Carl Hagelin said of Samsonov during his weekly Grant & Danny appearance on 106.7 The Fan, presented by F.H. Furr.

Samsonov is playing for more than just a trial as Holtby's backup. He's playing with the potential to take Holtby's job. With Holtby's contract up after the 2019-20 season, the Capitals will have to make some difficult decisions soon.

Nicklas Backstrom's deal is up after this season, too, and Alex Ovechkin's a year after that. If the Capitals want to keep the Hall of Fame duo together, they'll have to pay big money, and there likely won't be enough left over for Holtby, who could become the highest paid goaltender in the NHL. Which means it's Samsonov's time to make a name for himself.

"He reads the game well," Hagelin offered. "He's obviously a big goalie as well. He keeps the team calm and he had a great first game. We're happy to have him."

Samsonov – who stands at 6-foot-3, 208 pounds – finally joined Washington in May 2018, nearly three years after the Caps selected him with the 22nd overall pick.  After playing four seasons in Russia's KHL, Samsonov joined Washington's AHL affiliate in Hershey for the 2018-19 season, allowing 99 goals in 37 games (.898) for the Bears, with a 2.70 goals against average.

Samsonov is now playing for more than just a trial as Holtby's backup. He's playing with the potential to take Holtby's job. With Holtby's contract up after the 2019-20 season, the Capitals will have to make some difficult decisions soon.

Nicklas Backstrom's deal is up after this season, too, and Alex Ovechkin's a year after that. If the Capitals want to keep the Hall of Fame duo together, they'll have to pay big money, and there likely won't be enough left over for Holtby, who could become the highest paid goaltender in the NHL.

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