Capitals goaltending coach Dave Prior wasn’t sure if he’d get the chance to work with seventh-round pick Sergei Kostenko this week at development camp. While many top European prospects planned ahead by securing visas to come to the United States, Kostenko had to act quickly to get one after the team selected the Russian netminder with its 10th and final pick (No. 203 overall).
Even though the team had checked in with Kostenko before the draft to gauge his interest in someday playing in North America, Prior guessed the 19-year-old prospect was a bit surprised to be selected. Kostenko — who is under contract to play the next two seasons in Russia, according to Prior — finally arrived at camp on Wednesday and played his first scrimmage on Thursday.
“By many NHL teams’ standards, he’s probably too small, so [he was] available,” Prior said, “and at that position in the draft, he was worth the risk in my mind and [Director of Amateur Scouting Ross Mahoney’s] mind, so we took a chance.”
Prior first saw Kostenko several years ago playing in Prince Edward Island, Canada, but at the time, he was too young to be draft-eligible.
The team’s scouting department continued to keep tabs on Kostenko, almost exclusively through video. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound goaltender played 40 games with Metallurg in the Russian Junior League last season.
Prior said he was particularly impressed with Kostenko’s performance playing for a Russian team at the Subway Super Series in Canada last November. In the team’s first game, Kostenkos registered a 42-save shutout against players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
“I thought he showed he was very quick, very mobile, competitive,” Prior said. “When the game was going in the wrong direction, I didn’t see any change in his game, there was still compete. . . . He came across as a goaltender is typical of what I like in our Washington Capital goaltenders.”
Through Media Relations Director Sergey Kocharov, Prior reached out to Kostenko before the draft and came away convinced that Kostenko would be interested in trying for an NHL career.
General Manager George McPhee said at the draft that the Capitals needed to check with NHL Central Scouting to be sure if Kostenko was draft eligible because he was not listed on the prospect registry until the team requested it.
Kostenko joined the team for drills on Wednesday and logged a period and a half in net in Thursday’s scrimmage, allowing just one goal. He also made a glove save on a penalty shot by first-round pick Filip Forsberg.
“This was a real bonus,” Prior said. Kocharov “and [Team Operations Director] Katy Headman did some magical work to get his visa in his hands in time, so he could at least participate in part of this camp. . . . We had to hustle on this and got him as soon as we could.”