6.5.24 PK

RALEIGH, NC. - On July 1, 2023, when the Carolina Hurricanes re-signed both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, the writing was on the wall for Pyotr Kochetkov.

Although he'd played 24 games for the Canes during the 2022-23 season, the 2019 second round pick would be going to the American Hockey League for a third season.

The Canes knew they'd need him at some point given the previous injury history to both of the veteran netminders, but at least to start the campaign, the up-and-comer was on the outside looking in.

Now, fast forward to the present day, and it's almost laughable to think about the 24-year-old playing at the AHL level.

Ultimately playing just three games (and winning all three) for the Syracuse Crunch from October 13 - November 1, Andersen's blood-clotting issue then opened the door for Kochetkov and he seized the opportunity. Going on to play a team-leading 42 of the team's 82 regular season games, the Penza, Russia-born backstop likely would have played more if not for a concussion suffered on January 11 that held him out of the lineup for almost four weeks.

Named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for the month of February, Kochetkov was one of, if not the best, rookie goalie on the season as a whole, finishing tied for the league lead among all rookie netminders in wins (23) and shutouts (4), in addition to finishing with the best save percentage (SV%) among all Eastern Conference (.911) goalies.

While his numbers on the season were solid and have likely cemented him a spot on the 2024 Opening Night roster, Kochetkov was also a critical reason for the team's mid-December 180-degree turn after a turbulent start to the year.

On December 10, amid their six-game trek toward Western Canada and back, Vegas' preseason odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup were 14-12-1. Of the three goalies that had played for the team, none had better than a .894 SV% at the time and there had been a few disappointing performances through the first two months.

But as the team arrived in Ottawa two days later, a 31-save effort capped with a swagger-regenerating moment may have been the turning point for both the team and the young netminder.

From that night in Canada's capital until the end of the regular season, Kochetkov was fantastic.

19-7-3 with a .923 SV% in his final 30 appearances, Andersen coming back red-hot was the only thing that kept him from seeing a bulk of postseason action. Although Kochetkov was relegated to the team's second option during that time, his veteran goalie partner commended how he handled the situation.

"He's an amazing character. Since he's come (to North America) he's taken huge steps, speaking the language and getting involved with the guys," Andersen said. "It's cool to see a young guy that has an amazing skill set and talent and hopefully, he can continue to develop that."

Lack of playoff playing time aside, Kochetkov took a gigantic leap forward this past season and proved he belongs at the highest level.

"We've known that the talent is there," Rod Brind'Amour said of his young backstop during the campaign. "We noticed day one that he was something special, but he's a young kid. It takes time."

Signed through the 2026-27 season thanks to a four-year extension agreed to in November 2022, the very team-friendly cap hit of $2M puts the team in a good position in the crease for the next several seasons.