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Zagidulin following Rittich's path to Flames

Goalie prospect looking to transition to game in North America this season

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Artyom Zagidulin saw the path David Rittich took to the Calgary Flames and hopes to follow it.

That's why the 23-year-old Russia-born goalie signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Flames on April 9.

"The offer came and I thought about it," Zagidulin said through a translator at Flames development camp in July. "I decided that it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I decided to come."


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In June 2016, the Flames signed Rittich, then 23, to a one-year, two-way contract out of the Czech Extraliga. Last season, he went 27-9-5 with a 2.61 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout in 45 games for Calgary and will compete with Cam Talbot for the No. 1 job this season.

Zagidulin was 12-7-3 with a 1.96 GAA, .924 save percentage and four shutouts in 25 regular-season games as a backup with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League last season.

"I was sent a lot of video this year by (Calgary director of pro personnel) Derek MacKinnon … similar to when we found Rittich," Flames goalie coach Jordan Sigalet said. "There's a lot of positives. You see a real explosive goalie. He's good on his edges. He reads the game and play really well. Decent size (6-foot-2, 180 pounds).

"You just never know how it'll translate over to North America. With [Rittich], he adjusted to the North American game pretty easily. It's a different game for sure. It's a tough transition. We'll try to help [Zagidulin] adjust as quickly as possible."

Calgary general manager Brad Treliving is ready to take a wait-and-see approach with Zagidulin.

"There are obviously similarities (with Rittich)," Treliving said. "The similarities are they're European guys that went undrafted. David has put in the work. David is three years (in) now, time in the minors. Let's pump the brakes a little bit, but certainly there's a historical perspective of saying, 'Hey, there's similar pasts.' [Zagidulin] put up good numbers in the KHL and that's a good league. We'll see."

Rittich has been helping Zagidulin with the transition, but it'll take some time to find out whether the two will be NHL teammates. Zagidulin, like Rittich did, is expected to start with Stockton of the American Hockey League.

"My agent was giving me the example of David, and I was at a camp (in the Czech Republic) for two weeks and we were training together for a little bit," Zagidulin said. "We got to know each other a little bit."

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