Friday, 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov signed a three-year, entry-level contract that will bring the Russian to North America next season. Samsonov, who has been playing for the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk, is considered one of the best goaltenders not in the NHL.
Upon the announcement of Samsonov’s contract, the Capitals prospect spoke to Sport-Express’s Evgeny Belousov about the next step in his career and his relationship and education about his new team.
Samsonov also revealed part of the discussions he had with the Capitals general manager.
“In December I met with Brian MacLellan and we agreed that, from the outset I’ll be getting used to new circumstances, so I’ll start in the AHL,” Samsonov said as translated by RMNB’s Graham Dumas. “They should then bring me up pretty quickly to the NHL.”
Here’s the rest of Samsonov’s conversation with Belousov.
Are you ready to compete with Holtby and Grubauer?
Ilya Samsonov: “They’re strong goalies. Good competition never hurt anyone. I’ll be fighting for a role on the team, but whatever role they give me, I’ll start with that.”
Pittsburgh has evened up the series with the Capitals.
Ilya Samsonov: “My whole family and I are rooting for Washington, and we watch all the Capitals’ games. We believe the guys will finally break with the past and beat Pittsburgh.”
Have you spoken with your Russian teammates, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Orlov?
Ilya Samsonov: “Right now I don’t want to distract the guys, they’re in the playoffs. Earlier I used to talk with Kuzya. I hope I can congratulate them all on winning the Stanley Cup [he smiles].”
Tom Wilson is on the top line in the playoffs, but he was recently suspended for a borderline high hit. Is it easier for a goalie with that kind of guy on the team?
Ilya Samsonov: “On “Magnitka” we had [Evgeny] Timkin in that role. The guys from Pittsburgh will not be glad to see [Wilson] when he returns to the ice.”
[Magnitogorsk GM] Gennady Velichkin expressed himself more than once about your leaving the team. How did you leave things with Magnitka?
Ilya Samsonov: “I didn’t burn any bridges. I am very grateful to the team and to [team-owner] Viktor [Rashnikov], and to the club. I left things with Gennady [Velichkin] on good terms, and we clarified all the details. They’re letting me go, and they’re awaiting my return. They’re not going to make me work off [my debt] at the mills [he laughs].”
[Translator’s note: Metallurg is owned by the Magnitogorsk Steel Combine, to which Samsonov refers obliquely at the end of the interview. At the team’s inception, during the Soviet Union, supposedly the players were all plant employees who played hockey on the side.]
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