Another Calgary Flames prospect from Europe is headed over to North America. Per a tweet from his agent, Alyosha Pilko, goaltender Daniil Chechelev is coming over to play in North America in the 2021-22 season.
Chechelev was drafted by the Flames in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft and played last season split between three clubs in Vityaz Podolsk’s KHL organization: their KHL team, their minor league VHL team (HK Ryazan) and their junior MHL team (Russkie Vityazi Chekhov). He couldn’t find a home in Russia; the Flames’ reported preference was for him to be a VHL starter or a KHL backup, but seemingly all the major Russian clubs had either veteran goaltenders or internal prospects who weren’t drafted by NHL clubs. (If you’re a KHL team, why would you devote time or resources to a goalie who might sign with the Flames and head to North America?)
A non-Russian European landing spot wasn’t found, so Chechelev will head over to North America a year or two earlier than originally planned to get games in within the Flames system somewhere.
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So where can he play?
  • Chechelev is a 2001-born goalie, so he’s age eligible for Canadian major junior. But he’s both an import and an over-ager – a “two-spotter” in CHL parlance – and since he wasn’t selected in the CHL’s Import Draft he wouldn’t be eligible to play in the three Canadian leagues.
  • He was drafted into the USHL by the Sioux City Musketeers, so he’s eligible to play in the USHL. The USHL also has broader import rules – they have a limit of four imports and four 20-year-olds per team – so that could be a possibility. But again, USHL teams are primarily developmental vehicles for college-bound players and somebody who’s not NCAA eligible given his Russian pro experience may not be an easy sell for a USHL team.
  • Finally, Chechelev could just sign an AHL deal with Stockton and play with the Heat or ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks. But if you’re following along, you might notice that the Flames have a zillion goalies in their pro system right now: Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar in Calgary, some combination of Dustin Wolf, Tyler Parsons and Adam Werner in Stockton, and some combination of Andrew Shortridge and Matt Greenfield in Kansas City. That’s already seven guys for six spots, and cramming in an eighth goalie (who’s Russian and likely speaks very limited English) may be a challenge.
Training camp opens for the Flames on Sept. 15, so we’ll likely get some clarity regarding Chechelev and Ilya Nikolayev’s landing spots in the very near future.