Andy Potts Andy Potts
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We’ve reached the top dogs in our rundown of the 12 best players in each position from the first 12 seasons of the KHL. And the best goalie — by a sizeable margin — is a two-time Gagarin Cup winner and Metallurg legend. With 327 wins in the league — 59 ahead of his closest rival — Vasily Koshechkin is our top stopper.

12 from 12. Best goalies: Alexander Yeryomenko

1. Vasily Koshechkin

GP: 662; W: 327; SO: 81; GAA: 2.07; S%: 93.0 

Clubs: Lada, Severstal, Metallurg Magnitogorsk

Country: Russia

Koshechkin grew up in Togliatti, a town with a fine hockey heritage. It’s easy to imagine the young goalie being inspired by Lada’s historic Russian championship run in 1994, the first time the title went outside of Moscow. At the time, Vasily was just 11, but he was already learning his trade in the Lada hockey school.

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Subsequently Koshechkin turned pro, and his top-flight debut came in hometown colors. Koshechkin took his bow in the Russian Superleague in the 2002/03 season and established himself as first choice by 2005/06. That was the season he helped Lada win the IIHF Continental Cup, a first major honor for him and the last for the club. International recognition followed, with Koshechkin called up for the 2007 World Championship in Moscow where he collected a bronze medal. He then moved to Kazan, playing the final Superleague season with Ak Bars but failing to recapture his best form.

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Forged in Cherepovets

When the KHL started, Koshechkin came home. Admittedly, the journey from Kazan back to Togliatti was less dramatic than, for example, Alexander Radulov’s sudden departure from the NHL. But for the goalie it was the catalyst for bigger things. Lada’s glory days had faded: the team, whose fortunes were intimately linked with the progress of the giant car plant in the South Ural city, lacked the finances to compete with the 21st-century giants of Russian hockey. But Koshechkin steered Lada into the playoffs at the first time of asking, with the team finishing 13th overall before falling in the first round of post season. Lada would never reach such heights again, and today plays in the second-tier VHL.

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For Koshechkin, though, things were just getting started. Midway through the second KHL season he was traded to Metallurg Magnitogorsk, where he performed well enough to return to World Championship action and help Russia win silver in 2010. In that season, he also led the league in shut-outs; currently his 81 blanks are KHL record.

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Next came three seasons with Severstal, another outsider inspired into a playoff position with Koshechkin between the piping. Koshechkin was the fans’ player of the year in his first campaign and the team made the playoffs every time with him. In his second year, he led the KHL in shut-outs and, despite losing in the first round of the playoffs, had the best post-season goaltending stats with a GAA of 1.32 from six games in a hard-fought battle against Atlant. His third and final season saw progress to the second round of the playoffs before a defeat to SKA. Again, Severstal has never done as well since Koshechkin’s departure, reaching just one more playoff since 2013.

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A Metallurg legend

Then came Magnitogorsk. Back in his native Southern Urals, Koshechkin thrived — and so did his team. The goalie’s first season for Mike Keenan’s Metallurg saw him post a career best 94% save ratio in regular season and he maintained those high standards to help Magnitka win the 2014 Gagarin Cup. Along the way, he was named KHL goalie of the year for the first time, a big consolation after missing out on a call-up for the Sochi Olympics.

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Two years later, he and Metallurg did it all again, shrugging off a slow start to the season and adjusting after the departure of Keenan to win it all for a second time under Ilya Vorobyov. To date, no other team has lifted the Gagarin Cup after changing coach during the season; the consistency of Koshechkin and other senior pros such as Chris Lee, Danis Zaripov and Sergei Mozyakin were crucial in keeping the team together during the rough patches.

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There was almost a repeat in 2017, with Metallurg reaching the grand final once again, only to lose out against SKA. Koshechkin, though, was nominated as goalie of the season and playoff MVP — a rare distinction for a beaten finalist. And an even rarer distinction was on the way in 2018 when he finally made his Olympic debut — and helped the Russians to gold in PyeongChang. Koshechkin played all six games in Korea and was included in the tournament All-Star team as his country ended its long wait for glory at the Games.

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Koshechkin’s legendary status at Metallurg is already assured and, at the age of 37, he’s back for at least one more season in Magnitogorsk. Last September saw his landmark 400th appearance for the club. Fittingly, Severstal provided the opposition; Magnitka won 4-2. Meanwhile, the goalie remains close to his Togliatti roots. His wife, Irina, is from the same town and worked for many years as editor-in-chief of a local magazine. Their eldest son, Maxim, has followed his father and is beginning a career as a hockey goalie: last season he played for Lada’s u16s. When one great goaltending career comes to an end, perhaps another one will be ready to start.

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Andy Potts Andy Potts
exclusive for khl.ru

Related clubs

Lada (Togliatti) Lada (Togliatti)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Severstal (Cherepovets) Severstal (Cherepovets)
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