Sergei Bobrovsky generated a lot of buzz when he came to North America after signing an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. He was a baby-faced, young Russian goaltender who some thought could be "the answer" in goal for a club that seemed to be in a perpetual state of seeking goalies.
Four solid seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (Russia) caught the eye of Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, and the three-year pact meant a kick-started NHL career in the City of Brotherly Love. Bobrovsky was just 21 years old and had never played a game on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but an impressive training camp and injury to Michael Leighton meant "Bob" was headed straight into the deep end with no water wings.
But Bobrovsky was excellent. He was quickly one of the surprise stories in the NHL, winning 28 games in 2010-11 and posting a goals-against average of 2.59 along the way. Yet the Flyers took a different path during the postseason, starting Brian Boucher in the final four games of their first-round series.
The opportunity Bobrovsky earned in the regular season was slowly dwindling, and it became almost non-existent when Holmgren handed a nine-year contract to Ilya Bryzgalov a few months later. This past June, opportunity was reborn when Bobrovsky was traded to the Blue Jackets at the NHL Draft; he will compete for the No. 1 job in training camp, and according to pro goalie scout Justin Goldman, get what every goalie wants -- a chance to play.
|CBJ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save against the Florida Panthers. |
"It's really simple: Bobrovsky just needs to play," Goldman told BlueJackets.com. "When you have so much raw talent...I mean, his footwork is unreal and he's such a quick goaltender. He has great reflexes and instincts, and most importantly, he has an insatiable work ethic.
"When you have those skills and the talent, you have to play. You can't sit on the bench, and sure, there are some things you can learn and absorb from watching games, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to get in the net and stop the pucks at the NHL level on a consistent basis."
Bobrovsky is widely known as a tireless worker in practice, eager to talk to teammates and ask about any weaknesses they might see in his approach. That trait alone tells Goldman that Bobrovsky is fully aware he's not perfect and simply wants to get better.
"There are some elements of his game that need polished and refined if he's going to be consistently good at the NHL level," Goldman said. "One of the best things about him is he's so coachable. He's always willing to listen and learn."
From the outset, Goldman thought the Flyers bringing Bobrovsky straight into the NHL was a risky move. Would he have been better served playing in the American Hockey League first? It's hard to tell now, but the move to Columbus provides him the chance to solidify a No. 1 spot between the pipes.
Not only will Bobrovsky get to earn his ice time and get a clean slate with the Blue Jackets, Goldman believes he will push Steve Mason to the next level and, as a tandem, their camaraderie will be mutually beneficial.
"You can never hand someone a starting role (like what happened in Philadelphia), especially given his age and experience level," Goldman said. "That's a risky path for goalies like him to take because you have no time to get adjusted or acclimated to the smaller ice or anything like that.
"The opportunity he has in Columbus is outstanding; he will push Steve Mason and compete for every single puck. He's going to show the Blue Jackets organization that he's got what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL."