Hurricanes’ Kochetkov: From KHL Goalie to Stanley Cup Playoffs Starter

Pyotr Kochetkov has burst onto the NHL scene in his very short career thus far. He established himself as a reliable goaltender at a very young age in Russia. From there, he developed and was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes where he turned into a promising prospect. This year, Kochetkov has turned a lot of heads thanks to his ability to play at a high level as well as his no-nonsense attitude that he plays with.

Young Kochetkov Played Great With Hometown Club

Kochetkov showed promise as a goaltender even at a very young age. In the 2016-17 season, the 17-year-old netminder played for Dizel Penza of Russia’s Supreme Hockey League (VHL). Kochetkov was born in Penza on June 25, 1999, so playing for his hometown team had to mean a lot to the young man. During that season, he put up solid numbers in eight games. He recorded a .918 save percentage (SV%) and 2.27 goals-against average (GAA).The writing was on the wall at this point since he was performing like a veteran in net in only his first year in the VHL.

First KHL Contract and Struggles in Stupino

On July 8, 2017, Kochetkov signed his first Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) contract with HC Sochi. The deal which came just two weeks after his 18th birthday inked him for two years in Sochi. However, he’d have to prove his worth as he got sent down to Kapitan Stupino, Sochi’s farm team in the Junior Hockey League (MHL). When looking at his record in the MHL, one might think that he played bad since he won only six games compared to 21 losses. That wasn’t the case, though. He managed a respectable .917 SV% and 3.28 GAA in 31 games played for Stupino in 2017-18.

Kochetkov’s Stellar Return to VHL and KHL Debut

The 2018-19 season in Russia was a big one for Kochetkov. He came back to the VHL and suited up for HC Ryazan, Sochi’s affiliate team. Kochetkov produced a stunning .930 SV% and 2.13 GAA in the regular season and accrued a .955 SV% and 1.61 GAA in his three starts. Sochi also called him up during the season and he made two starts for his KHL team, finishing with a respectable .911 SV% and 2.57 GAA in two starts. The 19-year-old’s great performance in Russia put the NHL on notice, and he was slated as one of the top goaltenders for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Kochetkov’s Great Performance in the World Juniors

Kochetkov represented Russia in the 2019 World Junior Championships, earning a bronze medal as well as another accolade. Earning the starting goaltender position, he didn’t disappoint in the tournament. The NHL-aspiring netminder won four of his five starts, leading the way with a mind-boggling .953 SV% and 1.45 GAA. His groundbreaking numbers earned him the IIHF’s Best Goaltender Award for the tournament.

Trade From Sochi and Drafted by Hurricanes

On May 21, 2019, exactly a month from the draft, Kochetkov got traded from Sochi to SKA Saint Petersburg. Leading up to the draft, he was a consensus top-three goalie prospect, which meant a lot of teams had him on their radar and were hoping to pick him up. The Hurricanes selected the 6-foot-3 Russian with the fifth pick in the second round (36th overall).

Pyotr Kochetkov Carolina Hurricanes Draft
Pyotr Kochetkov, Carolina Hurricanes, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since the Hurricanes finished 2019 by going to the Eastern Conference Final, that pick didn’t originally belong to them. The pick initially belonged to the Buffalo Sabres, who traded that pick as well as a third-round and sixth-round pick in 2020 and Cliff Pu to acquire Jeff Skinner. Right after Kochetkov was taken with the 36th pick, the Ottawa Senators took Mads Sogaard 37th overall. This was the first time since 2014 that three goaltenders had been taken within the first 40 picks, which shows just how highly teams thought of Kochetkov.

Struggles With St. Petersburg and Trades

From 2019-22, Kochetkov progressed more and more as he quickly became one of the top prospects in the Hurricanes’ system. In the 2019-20 season, he struggled a bit with his new team. In the six games for St. Petersburg, he put up a .887 SV% and 2.62 GAA. He eventually got traded that year to Vityaz Podolsk where he played better with a .917 SV% and 3.09 GAA. In 2020-21, he played a lot better and began cementing his name as a great KHL goaltender. For Podolsk, he played four games and registered a .909 SV% and 2.69 GAA before he again got traded to a different KHL club.

Third KHL Team and Domination in Russia

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, Kochetkov’s most recent KHL team, has been the team that he’s had the most success with. During late December of the ’20-21 season, he was traded to Nizhny Novgorod, and he quickly put up one of his best performances to end the season. He unleashed a .931 SV% and 2.63 GAA in his six regular season games there and a .932 SV% and 2.48 GAA in the playoffs. Kochetkov quickly became a dominant force in between the pipes there and soon became their starting goaltender. In 2021-22, he played a career-high 23 games for Nizhny Novgorod where he played like one of the best in the league. His .926 SV% ranked sixth in the entire KHL (minimum 18 games played) and his 2.23 GAA ranked 12th.

Kochetkov’s Continued Success in AHL

Kochetkov made his American Hockey League (AHL) debut during the latter half of the 2021-22 season for the Chicago Wolves. In his debut against the Iowa Wild, he won his first game, stopping 30 of 33 shots and ruffling some feathers along the way. Iowa forawrd Kyle Rau ran over Kochetkov, which caused the goalie to chirp the Iowa bench, developing some bad blood early on in his North American career.

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He continued to provide fantastic numbers in the subsequent 14 games he played, too. Kochetkov accumulated a .921 SV% and an outstanding 2.09 GAA. These are stellar numbers on their own, but he only lost one game in regulation during this span, going 13-1-2 with Chicago. The former second-round pick also earned AHL honors, acquiring the AHL’s Rookie of the Month Award for the month of March.

Hurricanes’ Goalie Injuries Led to Kochetkov Stepping Up

Frederik Andersen, the Hurricanes’ Vezina-caliber goaltender, got injured in a game against the Colorado Avalanche on April 16 this season. This injury forced the Hurricanes to call up Kochetkov, who had no NHL experience up to that point. While he didn’t put up the flashiest numbers, he did enough to win. The rookie went undefeated with a .902 SV% and 2.42 GAA in the three regular season games he appeared in.

Pyotr Kochetkov Carolina Hurricanes
Pyotr Kochetkov, Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The hope was for veteran Antti Raanta to be the goaltender in the playoffs, but even more misfortune struck the team. Raanta went down with an injury in Game 2 of the first round against the Boston Bruins. Kochetkov was thrust into the goalie position and played very impressively against one of the NHL’s best offenses. In relief, the Penza-native stopped 30 of 32 shots, securing his first playoff win and fourth NHL victory overall. Also, he may have earned a soft spot in many NHL fans’ hearts when he stood up to Brad Marchand by pushing him, leading the irritated Bruins’ winger to be fined $5,000 for slashing Kochetkov.

Kochetkov’s Experience Makes Him Better Suited for the Future

Unfortunately, Kochetkov’s hot streak died off as he posted a .857 SV% in Game 3 and Raanta took back the reins the game after that. On the bright side, not much was expected of him, but he still got some much-needed NHL experience and publicity. Kochetkov has come a long way and he’s developed into a stout goaltender with an edge who’s sure to be next in line for Carolina’s No. 1 goalie spot.

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