We just talked about how difficult it is to scout and draft goaltenders last week. One of the reasons why goaltenders are difficult to draft and develop is that most teams only carry two of them, making it difficult for some to find playing time. Well, the most recent goalie draft pick for the Colorado Avalanche has found a new team, and it’s pretty far away from where he most recently played.
Ivan Zhigalov, the 7th round draft pick for the Avalanche back last season, has spent the last two years in North America playing Major Junior Hockey. It doesn’t appear that will be the case next season.
On Monday, it was reported that he signed a one-year contract to play for Yunost Minsk the Belarusian Extraleague. Zhigalov is a native of Belarus, so that part makes sense.
Last season, Zhigalov played for the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL, and was one of the top players on a poor team. As he just turned 20 years old, he would have been an overage player next season, on top of being European. OHL teams are only allowed to carry three overage players, and two Europeans. It’s possible Kingston just didn’t want to have Zhigalov take up two of those spots. They were one of the worst teams in the OHL last season, which meant Zhigalov faced a lot of shots. That can be good and bad for a goalie.
Yunost Minsk was the third best team in Belarus last year, so we shall see how much playing time Zhigalov gets next year.
The good news about this is that it’s only a one-year deal. There just wasn’t any room for Zhigalov at the professional level this year for Colorado, but there might be next season. Former draft pick Trent Minor is on the final year of his entry-level contract, and Justus Annunen will almost certainly be re-signed. On top of that, the Avalanche will likely sign a veteran to split time with Annunen in the AHL. That would have made it difficult for Zhigalov to find playing time, so this may be best for his development.
Either way, it’s good that Zhigalov found a team to play for. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part for goaltenders.