The only goalie to make our final 25 rankings this year, Artur Akhtyamov actually fell a bit from where we last had him ranked despite having a decent year and relatively few good and new prospects getting added into the system. This may be because of the general wariness around goalies, and goalie prospects in particular, or because he failed to cement himself as a KHL regular in his D+1 season despite his good numbers.
A fourth round pick in 2020, Akhtyamov plays in the Ak Bars Kazan system in Russia. Last season he split time between their MHL team (9 games, .935 sv%), their VHL team (14 games, .927 sv%) and their KHL team (3 games, .904 sv%). He also played for Team Russia at the World Junior Championship as the backup to uber-goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov, where he got into one game against Austria and had a .944 sv% against an overmatched team.
#LeafsForever prospect, goalie Artur Akhtyamov, also in some KHL pre-season action. His team wound up being on almost four straight minutes of PK, but Akhtyamov made these four good saves on open looks and rush chances in the span of a couple of minutes. pic.twitter.com/2S4Jcd5Ysz— AleSTANdro Kirk (@brigstew86) August 11, 2021
#LeafsForever goalie Artur Akhtyamov stopped all 24 shots he faced for the shutout. He also stopped three of the exhibition shootout attempts after the win. Looked like he was having some fun! pic.twitter.com/GIXCXBYqB6— AleSTANdro Kirk (@brigstew86) August 11, 2021
How We Voted
Akhtyamov is another case of a player who got a lot of people ranking him, but not very highly. Only Hardev and Seldo didn’t rank him at all, and of the eight people who did rank him, only one had him ranked better than 20th — Kevin had him 17th. For myself, I ranked him 21st. I am pretty non-confident in assessing goalies in the NHL, let alone a prospect in Russia who I have barely seen.
I assume the reason why he got ranked at all is because his numbers have always been good at any level he’s played, and he was good enough to at least be Russia’s backup behind one of the best goalie prospects in the past several years.
On the other hand, I assume the reason why he wasn’t really ranked that highly is because a) he was a fourth round pick, and b) has yet to establish himself as a starter in a top-tier pro league. That’s the balancing act that resulted in a low ranking. So if he manages to earn a spot as one of his KHL team’s primary goalies, we may see his rankings improve next year.
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Akhtyamov’s chances of getting some KHL games will depend on the health and play of the other goalies Ak Bars has entering this season. They have Timur Bilyalov returning from the previous season, and he’s only 26 and has a career .932 sv% in 100+ KHL games. Replacing their other main goalie that split starts pretty equally with Bilyalov last year is Igor Bobkov, who comes from Avangard Omsk, the KHL champions last season. He’s 30, has a .923 sv% in 226 career KHL games, and had a .928 sv% last season. However, he was worse in the playoffs with a .903 sv% and only played in 7 games on their championship run.
So Akhtyamov will enter this season as their third goalie, and primary starter in the VHL. He’ll likely play most if not all of this season in the VHL, unless there is injuries or extended poor performances by Bilyalov or Bobkov. The path is more clear for him now that Ak Bars’ other young goalie prospect, Amir Miftakhov, signed an ELC with Tampa Bay and is likely heading to North America this year. That removes one obstacle that Akhtyamov may have on his path to a regular KHL job.
If you want to look at it in a glass half-full kind of way, you could say that whatever games he gets in the VHL and especially the KHL will be earned over some tough competition. And his previous history suggests that he might just earn that spot. Wherever he’s played, he’s had very good numbers. He has an identical career save percentage to Miftakhov in the MHL (.926), but outperformed him in the VHL last season in similar games played (.927 vs .907) and was their main goalie in the playoffs. In that sense, Akhtyamov has already started moving up the team’s depth charts. If there is ever an injury among the two KHL primary goalies, or one of them has a poor year, Akhtyamov has a strong position as their first goalie up.
Here’s what some others had to say about him:
Katya: The only goalie prospect on the Leafs who might become someone interesting based on performance to date, he’s still not a top tier goalie on the world stage. He’s been good in the KHL/VHL/MHL, but hasn’t grabbed a roster spot on the top team yet.
Hardev: I ranked him in his first year because he was new, but I didn’t rank any goalies this year because it’s so hard to know when a goalie is going to fizzle out before the NHL. Scott has because of injury, and Woll’s hit a wall in the AHL. Akhtyamov has good numbers in the Russian junior leagues, but we’ll see if/when he makes the KHL.
Species: Goalie prospects! They make you feel like a six year-old on Christmas Eve seeing a wrapped gift with your name on it that is about the exact weight and shape of that one thing you really want, but you have to wait to unwrap it until the next day, so you spend the whole night dreaming about how it will be so perfect to finally have that special item which all the other kids already have. Then you wake up the next day so excited to finally unwrap it, and you see... it’s a book set of the complete works of Charles Dickens, given to you by your Great Aunt; not exactly what you were hoping for (at least most kids,) and the excitement dies. So here we are again, with more great expectations on another newly drafted goalie, but this time they are at least somewhat tempered by the Russians themselves who, having some better prospects, mostly kept Akhtyamov out of the KHL and sitting on the bench for recent international tournaments. Perhaps when he makes it over here to play for the Marlies he can show us all that projected talent. Then the Marlies net won’t feel like such a bleak house like it did last season, and he might even boost the Marlies right out of their recent hard times. That would be a happy twist.
Alright, fine, let’s try and talk about his goalie skills
So I say this having watched Akhtyamov for a grand total of three games. His one World Juniors game against Austria, and two pre-season games for Ak Bars. He had a 2-0 loss, and a 2-1 win. He stopped 42 of 44 shots between the two games. Which is nice, but, you know, pre-season...
All I can say I saw is that he seemed pretty calm. He didn’t look like he had happy feet, or get overly fidgety in his crease. He stayed set to the shooter and waited to react when he needed to make a save. He didn’t seem easily faked. The only time he seemed chaotic is when he needed to be because of a scramble. But in the games I watched he didn’t seem challenged very much. He had one stretch in a game where Ak Bars was on the penalty kill for about six straight minutes, and he made some nice saves to keep it scoreless early in the first period.
That matches what one of his original scouting reports noted:
Akhtyamov moves well in the net, he does a good job controlling his rebounds, positionally sound but aggressive when he needs to be. He’s not the most explosive or athletic goalie in the world but he’s quick and he gets to some tough shots.
Outside of that, Akhtyamov has what I can only describe as a bit of Ron Hextall, Ed Belfour, et al in him as far as his attitude goes.
So that’s nice.
Do think 23rd is a fair ranking for Akhtyamov as of now?
This poll is closed
I ranked him much better
I didn’t even rank him
Sounds about right