Prospects News & Rumors: Zagidulin, Kolesar & ECHL

The Calgary Flames have loaned one of their goaltending prospects to his hometown team in Russia where he has had great success. The Vegas Golden Knights have extended one of their most physical prospects. Finally, a second team in the ECHL has decided to sit out the 2020-21 season.

Flames Send Zagidulin to Russia

Just when you thought we had seen the last of loaning of NHL prospects to Europe, the Flames give us at least one more. They announced that they have loaned goaltender Artyom Zagidulin to Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

The Flames originally signed the undrafted free agent in April of 2019. He made his North American debut with the Stockton Heat last season in the American Hockey League (AHL). His first season in the AHL was not the greatest as he posted a .898 save percentage (SV%) and 3.07 goals-against average (GAA) in 30 games. The Flames didn’t let the disappointing numbers discourage them as they gave him a one-year contract extension back in June.

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Zagidulin gets to return to his hometown team, who he had been playing for within their system since 2013. His best season in the KHL came in 2018-19 when had a .924 SV% and 1.96 GAA in 25 games, just prior to signing with Calgary. Overall, in 36 career KHL games, he has a .931 SV% and 1.79 GAA. The plan is for him to return to the United States for the start of the AHL season, whenever that might be.

Kolesar Re-Ups with Vegas

The Golden Knights announced earlier this week that they re-signed forward Keegan Kolesar to a two-year contract extension. The team revealed that the new deal is worth $725,000 per season.

Kolesar, 23, was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third round (69th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired by the Golden Knights for a second-round pick during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

After finishing a successful career with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League (WHL), Kolesar turned pro in 2017. He had a breakout season in 2018-19, where he scored 20 goals for the Chicago Wolves in AHL and helped them advance to the Calder Cup Final. He was limited to just 33 games last season due to injury, but he did make his NHL debut, appropriately enough, against the Blue Jackets, on Jan. 11, 2020.

Keegan Kolesar Chicago Wolves
Kolesar progressed with with the Wolves. (Sarah Avampato / The Hockey Writers)

Despite his young age, Kolesar was one of the leaders in the Wolves’ locker room. He was a warrior on the ice, doing whatever was asked him and playing in any situation. He did a lot of the dirty work by winning board battles, getting to the front of the net and dishing out a big hit when needed. He is never afraid to stick up for a teammate and was one of the more vocal players on the roster.

At 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, Kolesar has the size to compete at the NHL level. He could become a valuable bottom-six player who can provide some physical play while killing penalties and scoring the occasion goal.

Norfolk Pulls the Plug on Season

Back on Oct. 9, the ECHL announced their return to play. They are going with a unique “split-season” format that has 13 teams playing a 72-game schedule starting on Dec. 11 and the remaining teams playing a 62-game schedule beginning Jan. 15. The league also confirmed that the Atlanta Gladiators suspended operations for the 2020-21 season.

There will one less team starting on Jan. 15, as the Norfolk Admirals announced on Tuesday that they will not participate in the new season.

“This has been a grueling decision,” said Admirals CEO Patrick Cavanagh in an official statement. “We have been seeking every opportunity to play since the Spring, but ultimately, working with our community is the Admirals’ primary objective. With 31 years of Admirals hockey, we look forward to continuing where we left off last season with sellout crowds in 2021.”

Just as is the case with the Gladiators, per the ECHL/PHPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, all Norfolk Admirals Players are free agents for the 2020-21 Season immediately.

As the European season hits it stride and junior and minor league hockey hopefully begin in North America in the coming weeks, we will continue to bring you daily updates on all the top prospect news and rumors.

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