BUFFALO – Despite all of Ilya Samsonov’s talents, the NHL Draft’s No. 1 rated European goalie looks like a risky pick. The 18-year-old already has a three-year contract with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk, a KHL team in his native Russia.
But Samsonov’s deal doesn’t bother Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who wants to find a goalie at this weekend’s NHL Draft. The Sabres recently met with Samsonov, a prospect Murray believes can develop properly in the KHL, a league widely regarded as the world’s second-best.
“He’s 18 years old, he needs time,” Murray said Thursday inside the First Niagara Center.
Samsonov’s absence at the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month created an opportunity for the Sabres and other clubs to “get out ahead of other teams and do your own thing,” Murray said.
“We sent two people to Detroit this week that spent three days with him and watched him on the ice,” he said. “I know that a couple other teams did, but all 30 teams weren’t there.”
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Samsonov will be a “strong backup” in 2015-16 and could eventually become Mettalurg’s starter, said Murray, who likes big goalies.
“He’s going to get development there,” Murray said. “The one position there that that league probably doesn’t bother me as much as others is goaltending. You still get shots, you still get coaching. He’s still a big athletic guy that was a great interview with our guys that went down there and he has his head on his shoulders. He knows what he has to do, he knows his own timeline – very, very good self-evaluator.”