Flyers’ Prospect Fedotov Enters Spotlight at Winter Olympics

Goaltender Ivan Fedotov has led the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to the gold medal game against Team Finland at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. He has allowed just eight goals in five games for the tournament favorites, who advanced with a thrilling shootout victory against Team Sweden in their semifinal matchup.

Flyers Prospect and KHL Goaltender

The Philadelphia Flyers selected Fedotov in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. His towering 6-foot-8 frame breaks the typical mold of NHL goaltenders, but at the time, 6-foot-5 Anthony Stolarz was also coming up through an organization focused on building goaltender depth.

Fedotov played mainly in major junior hockey leagues in Europe and Asia before working his way into a role as a full-time goaltender in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the past three seasons. He has appeared in 89 total games in the KHL since the 2014-15 season. While his stats look impressive by North American standards, Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic astutely pointed out that the KHL style of play allows for goaltenders to post better statistics than the average NHL goaltender. 

A potential transition to professional hockey in North America, however, could be expedited because of the high level of competition in the KHL if he opts to leave Russia after the 2021-22 season. Most international hockey experts consider the league to be the second-best in the world behind the NHL. Their continuing transition to regulation-sized NHL rinks should also help minimize Fedotov’s adjustment period. 

2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

Fedotov has made an impression on the world stage at the Olympics this month. He posted back-to-back shutouts in the first two games during the qualifying round. Switzerland outshot the ROC 33-30 in the opening game of the tournament, but the quality play in the crease allowed them to survive a less-than-stellar start. The deep pool of Russian talent came to the forefront in a more assertive win in their second game. They beat Denmark 2-0 with an empty-net goal in the final minutes despite controlling the pace of play throughout the game. Fedotov stopped all 16 shots he faced.

2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 ROC
2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, ROC (The Hockey Writers)

The ROC hit a bump in the road with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Czech Republic in their final game of the qualifying round. Former Boston Bruins star David Krejčí led the way for the Czechs with a goal and two assists in a wild, back-and-forth contest. The offensive onslaught resulted in a hiccup for Fedotov, who allowed a tying goal in the final minutes of regulation and a game-winner during the 10-minute session with three skaters apiece. He regained his rhythm in a 3-1 victory against Denmark in the quarterfinals.

Related: 2022 Olympics: Voynov Back on the World Stage for ROC

The most exhilarating game of the tournament came in the semifinal round against Sweden on Friday. The ROC led 1-0 midway through the third period when the Swedes finally solved Fedotov with a goal by Anton Lander on a rebound opportunity. The Russian netminder seemed somewhat frazzled during the shifts following the equalizer. He gave up several additional rebound opportunities. Good work by the Russian defensemen kept the game tied, and Fedotov stabilized himself to finish with 31 saves on 32 shots during regulation.

Fedotov and Swedish goaltender Lars Johansson dueled after regulation. They combined for nine saves despite constant high-danger chances at both ends. The two goaltenders pushed the shootout to eight rounds before Arseni Gritsyuk finally capped off the win for the ROC. Fedotov allowed two goals on the first three shots but recovered with five consecutive saves under high-pressure circumstances to secure the victory.

Gold Medal and Beyond

Fedotov will carry a .944 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.53 goals-against average (GAA) into the final game against Finland with the highest international prize on the line. The Finns earned medals in four of the five Winter Olympic games that featured NHL players from 1998-2014, but they have never won a gold medal. The Russians already have a record eight gold medals, and they hope to repeat with their ninth after a win in Pyeongchang in 2018. The game will air on Saturday at 11:10 p.m. in the eastern time zone.

Ivan Fedotov, Philadelphia Flyers prospect (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher mentioned Fedotov as part of a group of NHL prospects “more than ready to start their professional experience with the Flyers” when he spoke to the media in Vorhees, NJ last week. The 25-year-old has experienced the slow transition of goaltenders after they are drafted into the NHL. However, his extensive body of professional work against high-level competition and his success on the world stage in Beijing have undoubtedly caught the eye of NHL talent evaluators.

The Flyers will continue to evaluate the chances of the Russian netminder to play at the NHL level in 2022-23. The crease belongs to franchise goaltender Carter Hart for the foreseeable future, but backup Martin Jones is unlikely to return next season. Felix Sandström was outstanding against the San Jose Sharks in December in his only NHL game. He has played a full-time role in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, and he will be the primary in-house competition if Fedotov elects to come to North America.