When was the last time that Toronto drafted and developed a goalie that turned into a regular NHLer? I'm not even talking about a starter or above average guy, just someone who stuck around in the NHL for more than a small handful of games. That would be James Reimer, who was drafted back in 2006.

For fun, here is a full list of all of the goalies Toronto selected going back to that 2006 draft:

  • 2006: James Reimer
  • 2008: Grant Rollheiser
  • 2011: Garrett Sparks
  • 2013: Antoine Bibeau
  • 2016: Joseph Woll
  • 2017: Ian Scott
  • 2018: Anthony Bouthillier
  • 2020: Artur Akhtyamov
  • 2021: Vyacheslav Peksa
  • 2022: Dennis Hildeby

That's an awful lot of misses, and also a lot of gaps between taking a goalie at all. After Reimer, there's Garrett Sparks who at least made the NHL but fizzled out pretty quick, and then Joseph Woll who is now our presumptive 1A goalie of the present. But after him was bad injury luck, and then another whiff.

So after having a lot of issues with their prospect pool in net, a few years ago the Maple Leafs under Kyle Dubas did a little overhaul of how they scouted, drafted, and developed goalies. Artur Akhtyamov was the first goalie who was scouted and selected under this new system, and so far it is too early to tell how successful it has been.

But by the time we got this past draft, when Toronto selected Timofei Obvintsev in the fifth round, a pattern has emerged. Toronto has selected four goalies under this system, and all four have been out of Europe – three have been out of Russia, and three of them were taken as relatively obscure re-entries.

All of those trends again converge on Obvintsev, so let's talk about him.


Position: Goalie
League: MHL
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 179 lbs
Birth date: Jan 06, 2005

This year, Obvintsev was taken as a re-entry. He was first eligible for the draft last season, but no team took him. From everything I've heard scouts say about him now, that is not surprising. No one had him on their radar, and I don't blame them.

Obvintsev only played in two games in 2021/22. Both were in the MHL for CSKA Moscow's junior team. CSKA is one of the top programs in the Russian hockey circuit, and they often are much deeper than most other teams' systems. The following season, in 2022/23 which was his first NHL draft eligible year, he played in only six games. Five were again in the MHL, where he had an .856 sv%. The one other game came in the VHL, where he only played in relief of the starter and didn't stop a single puck.

Even in this season, Obvintsev only played in 18 total games between the regular season and playoffs, and all of them were in the MHL. He came into this year as the third string goalie for the junior team, but due to injuries he got a shot early in the season – he got into seven games (5 starts, two games taking over the other goalie's start) as the 1B/backup between September and October, stopping 230 of 254 shots he faced (.906 sv%).

But then Obvintsev played no games in November, and only dressed as the backup once. He played or dressed in zero games in December. Then made one start in January (stopped 29 of 31 shots) and dressed in two others. He also dressed as the backup for CSKA in the KHL for one game, but didn't play at all.

Suddenly, February came along and Obvintsev became their main starter. On February 2nd, he played in relief of their main starter. He then made three straight starts, then played in relief again, then started twice more in a row. Their main starter lost game one of their opening playoff round, and Obvintsev started the second game and also lost despite giving up only 2 goals on 36 shots.

By the time the season was over, Obvintsev played in 16 regular season games and led the team with a .921 sv%. He played the third least on the team in terms of games and minutes played, with the other two being Pyotr Andreyanov (17 years old and 2025 NHL draft eligible) who played 20 games with a .916 sv%, and Ivan Novozhilov who is 20 years old and had a .907 sv%.


So by all accounts, Obvintsev is a bit of a throwback goalie who does not play a very technical, butterfly-focused style that most goalies do now. Instead, he plays what I've seen scouts refer to as a "hybrid" style – he will use the butterfly at times, but he also likes to stay standing upright and making saves without going down into the butterfly. So, in short, he plays more instinctually compared to other goalies, and less purely technical.

To some extent, Obvintsev makes it work. He is both 6'4" and very athletic, so he can move around in the crease with explosive pushes and some fun recovery saves. Watching some of his MHL games, he looks very active. He is definitely an adventure and not what you're used to seeing when watching goalies. But he also makes saves you wouldn't expect him to make as a result.

From HockeyProspect.com's draft guide, here's how they describe his play style:

It’s a bit similar to how Georgiev operates between the pipes, where he is really one of the last hybrid goalies who blends in some stand-up. The difference is that Georgiev is 6’0 tall, so having a bit of stand up in his game makes a lot of sense, whereas for Obvintsev, it’s an aspect that will need to be slightly reigned in and refined. With that said, the reason he can get away with the style he plays is because he’s one of the freakiest athletes out of any draft-eligible goalies in some ways, specifically when looking at his extension abilities.
We talk a lot about extension rates with goalies, and that’s because they are critical and Obvintsev has elite extensions and is the top goalie in this class when focusing on this quality. Other aspects of his athleticism also shine. He’s excellent at transitioning between save types, had a rapid transitional butterfly, and is fleet of foot when needing to use his skating to either re-integrate or integrate from his post.
He’s also one of the more aggressive poke-checking goalies when operating on down-low plays around his net area. He has an active stick, and he uses it a lot to either disrupt shot attempts or deflect incoming passes. The more athletic the base, the easier it is for a goalie to extend out and use their length to their advantage, so his style is conducive to his toolkit.

Perhaps as a result of this unusual hybrid-style, Obvintsev gets rave reviews for a peculiar area of goaltending: his blocker. I've heard more than a couple of scouts talk about how good his blocker arm is, and I can't help but think it is partially because he doesn't focus exclusively on the butterfly mechanics. It allows him to be more responsive, and for whatever reason that works well for him in this area.

Also from the HockeyProspect.com's draft guide:

Speaking of gifted, he has the best projectable blocker in this class. He has full range of motion and can make very dextrous blocker saves that are highlighted by windmill knockdown saves, to saves off of shots that require him to immediately throw his elbow into a position where it’s directed towards the ceiling of the arena. When shots are high danger and in close quarters, he can go from a neutral blocker position into an elevated position at the top of his bar at an incredibly rare speed. He works this in combination with his active shoulders, which allows him to stay elevated. We rarely get this excited about a blocker side or the shoulder activity of a goalie, and the glove side is admittedly more important long-term, but it’s special.

Timofei Obvintsev Highlights


While there are some advantages to Obvintsev's playing style – and the scouts that rave about him seem to really like that he has it – there are downsides. One of the advantages of the butterfly is you are playing the percentages. Low and medium danger shots against them are less likely to beat them, when it's done correctly. You cut down the angles and take up as much of the net as possible so only the best shots or scoring chances beat them.

So Obvintsev's playing style can help him make more difficult saves that he wouldn't if he was a strict butterfly guy, but he also lets in some ugly/weird ones that he shouldn't. If you told me his nickname was ковбой, I'd believe it, because he can be a real wild cowboy in everything he does. It makes him very entertaining, but if you're cheering for the team he plays for then he may give you a few heart attacks.

The other downside to his game seems to be his glove hand, which is kind of weird if his blocker is supposed to be so good. But this is something both the scouting reports have said, and I saw it too while watching him. He let in some stinkers he should have been able to stop with the glove.

For other issues with his game, I'll quote HockeyProspect.com again:

Despite his impressive game, he is susceptible to shooters who can adjust their release by presenting short side before firing it far-side in high-danger areas (and visa-versa). Another issue is that although we have seen him make outstanding glove saves, he will let in a soft goal occasionally, and it’s usually low glove when this occurs. Like most younger goalies, he can have difficulty absorbing pucks into his butterfly at times, and this is usually a result of being too late to set up from his relaxed stance on in-coming shots, depending on the context of the play. This means he can set too late on generic shots, leading to problems that shouldn’t occur. It also means he can be late on some lateral set-up plays. There’s definitely a rawness to him, from a technical perspective, he’s also busier, over-extending out of his net more and is therefore forced to scramble more often than both Moysevich and Zarubin.


So Obvintsev is a goalie that has a lot of enticing tools, from his size, athleticism, and solid overall instincts. While there are downsides to his game that comes from his playing style, the foundation of tools he has to work with is something that the scouts who love him believe will help him turn into a very good goalie.

The belief is that Obvintsev being allowed to build his instinctual play and athletic style is something every goalie should have, and now he can work on refining his game with better mechanics and control. That does make him more of a raw and long-term project than most other goalies, but the theory goes that it will help him become a better goalie in the end. These are goalie scouts saying this, so take it for what it's worth. I have no expertise in this area to say if that makes sense or not.

At the very least, it seems that Toronto agrees with the sentiment, or at least they saw something in Obvintsev that most other scouts in the NHL and scouting communities did not. The one concern I have is that he won't get that much playing time again, if he was mostly a third string goalie for his MHL team until injuries gave him the opportunity, there's no guarantee he'll get much more next year either. It may depend on the contract statuses of various goalies on the MHL, VHL, and KHL rosters of the parent club.

Obvintsev does have one year left on his current contract. I would guess it's more likely that he stays in Russia after that, for how long will remain to be seen. Maybe he takes that opportunity to move to another team that will play him more. Or, maybe there's a long shot that Toronto brings him over to North America at that point. If he's a long term project, though, I don't count that as very likely.

I just hope he gets playing time, not just for his development but because he's just so damn fun.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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