FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2019: #16 Artyom Zagidulin

For the first time since Andrei Trefilov, the Calgary Flames have a Russian goaltender under contract. The club signed free agent netminder Artyom Zagidulin to a one year contract this past spring. Can Zagidulin translate his impressive Russian performances?

Based on his sheer potential, Zagidulin is our 16th-ranked prospect in the Flames system.

How did we get here?

Originally from Magnitigorsk, Russia, the 24-year-old Zagidulin has spent much of his high-level playing career with his hometown team. His first major time away from Magnitigorsk was in 2017-18, when he spent the season with Kurgan of the VHL – a seven hour drive from Magnitigorsk.

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If you look at Zagidulin’s progression, the words “late bloomer” come to mind. He wasn’t a blow-away goaltender in his teens, but he’s seemingly found a good rhythm as he’s matured.

Season Age KHL VHL
2012-13 17 4 (.859)
2013-14 18 35 (.905)
2014-15 19 3 (.975) 38 (.919)
2015-16 20 1 (.929) 14 (.907) 4 (.951)
2016-17 21 10 (.949) 9 (.934)
2017-18 22 40 (.938)
2018-19 23 25 (.924)

At the ripe old age of 23, Zagidulin made the decision to leave his comfort zone and try out North American hockey.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

The 2018-19 campaign was Zagidulin’s third full pro season and fifth season where he spent at least part of it playing pro hockey. While he’s spent more time in the secondary VHL than the KHL at this point of his career – 66 VHL games vs. 36 KHL games – he’s done enough in both leagues to turn some heads.

He spent this latest season backing up Russian goaltending legend Vasily Koshechkin in Magnitigorsk. Koshechkin is basically Metallurg’s version of Henrik Lundqvist, if injuries and age hadn’t eroded Lundqvist’s excellence quite as rapidly. Zagidulin played 25 games, went 12-7-3 with a .924 save percentage and 1.96 goals against average. He played half as much as Koshechkin, who had a .930 save percentage and a 2.06 goals against average.

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For the curious, Zagidulin posted weaker numbers than New York Rangers prospect Igor Shestyorkin (.953 save percentage) and New York Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin (.940 save percentage) while playing slightly less.

Those in the know

Flames director of player development Ray Edwards agreed with comparisons with David Rittich’s development path – particularly the duo each having impressive performances in Europe in their early 20s – but cautioned that Zagiudlin’s development path might be a bit different.

I think we all know that this isn’t a situation where we expect him to come in and do what David did right away. This may take a little bit more time, and that’s okay. We see enough raw ability in this guy and the progression with him will be ‘okay, bring him over here, let’s get him accustomed to our culture, how we do things, how we play,’ because as you know the game’s way different [in Russia]. They play way more a possession game. There’s not a ton of traffic, there’s not as much movement in front of the net. So I think let’s get him over here, let’s get him accustomed to how the North American game is, let’s get him comfortable with the culture in terms of learning the language. This is a two or three year model.

On the horizon

Given the Flames’ glut of goaltenders, it seems probable that Zagidulin joins Nick Schneider with the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks for 2019-20. From there, if he has a good start to the season it seems likely that the Flames will try to get him some American Hockey League reps – though that might be dependent on injuries or trades involving their projected AHL goalies Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons.

Zagidulin’s a longer term play than many of the other goalies in the system. He’ll be a restricted free agent when his one year deal expires.


#20 – Lucas Feuk #19 – Josh Nodler
#18 – Linus Lindstrom #17 – Carl-Johan Lerby

  • Jobu

    Zag’d when he should have Zig’d

    One can hope we have another Rittich here, but the sample size is just way too small to tell. Still a gamble worth taking though!

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      Who would you have targeted in your wisdom???

      For me, the only missed chance was Grubauer (who was a relative unknown at the time). Probably nobody else would have us ahead of where we are today.

      • The Fall

        I’m not paid to build this team with my wisdom.
        It seems to be that reaching for overlooked goalies from less than conventional development paths in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough; or signing over the hill NHL’ers in hopes of a bounce back; or signing unproven back ups in hopes of a break out is Tre’s response to the team never having been able to develop their own draft picks into a consistent solution.

        • KootenayFlamesFan

          To me it seems that there is no feasible alternative, or he would pursue it. If drafting and developing an elite goalie was an easy thing to do, I’m sure he would have done it, along with every other team in the NHL.

          I think there are a number of legitimate goalies he would have liked to pursue, but what he would have had to give up in players or ca space or both would not have done any the team any future favours. We could have a good goalie, but me missing more key pieces than we already are which doesn’t really help the team.

          We obviously have the firepower to contend with the best, let’s see if one (or both) of our goaltenders can prove themselves behind our team this year.

    • He is throwing goalies at the wall just to see what sticks.

      Yes, but you need to be honest with yourself: every single goalie in the league, from top to bottom, is either the result of what you describe or in the process of that. That includes everyone from Price to Binnington, who was considered a ‘throw away’ until St. Louis decided to “see what sticks” by sticking him between the NHL pipes.

      • The Fall

        Dont remember the exact details, but nearly every Cup winning goalie for the past 15 or so years, was a first or second round pick, (undrafted Tomas and Niemi) and most were playing for their drafted team (except J-S.G). Binnington was a 3rd round draft pick by the Blues, Quick was 3rd round by the Kings. Point being, majority of the best teams, with the best goalies, draft them and develop them.

        • Kiprusoff was San Jose’s ‘throw away’ and was drafted in the 5th Round.
          Dominik Hašek was drafted 199th overall, in the 10th Round.
          Pekka Rinne, 258th overall.
          Henrik Lundqvist, 205th overall.
          Tim Thomas, 217th pick and didn’t see the NHL until the 2002/03 season, became a regular 3 years after that.
          Nikolai Khabibulin, 204th pick.

          Point being, to quote you more directly, there is no solid formula for goalies.

          • TheBigChef

            You’re cherry picking. Yes, there are a number of really good goalies who were late picks or not even drafted–the same can also be said for skaters. For every goalie you just listed I could name you a star forward/defenseman who was taken just as late. There are certainly more top-end goalies who were drafted and developed than there are who were diamonds in the rough or picked over from other leagues. And as always, context is key. Binnington was hardly a throw away. He played in the world juniours–so at least one person considered him a top-two goalie in the country for his age group–and was a third round pick. He was always a legitimate prospect.The fact it took him a long time to develop does not make him a throw away. It says the opposite. They invested resources in him to properly develop and he seized the opportunity when it was presented. Kiprusoff was not really a throwaway either. It’s not that San Jose didn’t like him, it’s that he was stuck on a team that already had Nabokov and Toskala. Obviously Kipper ended up being better than both those guys and San Jose gave up the wrong guy, but it’s not like they just gave up on him. They made the decision to trade one of three legitimate NHL goalies and they also ended up with Marc Eduard Vlasic out of the deal.

            The point is that “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” is not at all a valid strategy and probably a big reason why we’ve sucked so much at developing our own guys. The common theme for most goalie success stories is (1) finding someone who actually knows how to scout and evaluate goalies, rather than just looking at stats; (2) invest time and resources into the development of those goalies, with an appropriate understanding that it may take time; and (3) ensure there is adequate opportunity for development and taking steps forward–keeping a guy in the ECHL because that’s the only spot for him to play can be disastrous to development. We’ve been awful at the development part and hopefully that improves.

  • Great Big "C

    Good article, im sure B.T. would prefer Zagidulin in the AHL with Parsons as he only signed for 1 year, would be nice to package Gillies and Frolich for a depth RW and a draft pick.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I don’t think he came to NA to play in the ECHL. He may not get to the NHL this season, but I think he has a better chance of sticking in the AHL than Gillies. You would want him to get about 35 games minimum this season, so him and Parsons should (rightfully so) be playing in the AHL. Give Gillies $750k to play in Kansas for the year and prove he’s better than he was last year.

    • Budgie

      Gillies value? not sure if he can be traded for much-if BT had confidence in his Goalies aside from Rittich he wouldn’t have signed Talbot. It would be good for Gillies to be moved to a team that will give him a chance-for his sake.

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    Everyone raves about Demko, but his NHL stats are almost identical to Gillies. as far as reasonable, doable deals, there has not been much available to the flames. Like I said before, Grubauer, possibly Raanta wouldn’t have been injured and would have performed here.

    Other than that, this is what we’ve been able to do – Lets see how it pans out.

  • deantheraven

    16th on the FN list, no. 1 on my goalie prospex list. Get him some reps in the minors, hope he shines and makes it tough on Mgmnt for who-to-sign next season.

    • TheBigChef

      You’re nuts if you think a 24 year old who has never played a game in any North American pro-league and only 36 career KHL games played should be our top goalie prospect.

      Parsons is and will continue to be our top prospect for the foreseeable future. I’d even slot Gillies ahead of Zagidulin for the time being until he comes over and proves otherwise. He hasn’t earned anything yet. Wouldn’t be surprised if Wolf passes him on the depth chart as well if Zag is still around in a couple years.

      • deantheraven

        For sure he hasn’t earned anything- yet. Gillies hasn’t earned anything either. Let’s just wait and see Zag play before we put him in the ‘E’.

        • TheBigChef

          Exactly. Let them BOTH play and earn their net for this year.

          Gillies missed his chance to earn an NHL back up job for this year, which was probably the hope when he was given a one-way deal for the second half of that contract. But he has played NHL games and looked okay (not amazing, but not out of place), and up until last year looked like a really good prospect. He is also a guy we have invested time, money and a draft pick in. Zagidulin was a free asset that cost us nothing but a contract slot. If Gillies shows up to camp and looks better than Zag, I have no problem sending him down to the Coast. If Zag looks better, then losing Gillies for nothing is palatable.

          In terms of prospect rankings, though, Zag is not at the top. If we are talking about most ready to jump in and play NHL games if needed, at this point that has to go to Gillies because is the only one who has done it. If we are talking about potential and ceiling, hands down it is Parsons.

      • mrroonie

        Parsons is probably three years away from playing any appreciable amount of NHL ice time, Wolf is more like five years away. Zagidulin is two years older than Parsons and has more games played with better numbers in the KHL which is an equal or higher level of competition than the AHL where Parsons has only 27 games of experience. Zagidulin is coming into a similar situation to what Rittich did, straight from Europe to the AHL for a year of acclimatization then bring him up as the backup to Rittich until Parsons is ready.

        As for Gillies, I’m not sure I’d put him ahead of Schneider, let alone Zagidulin.

  • BendingCorners

    Zagidulin is the shiny new toy. It might take him a year or two to adjust to North American hockey. Time in the ECHL might not hurt him. We can all cross our fingers but holding our breath would be a mistake.