Just how sharks strike fear in people’s eyes, beware of Alexei Melnichuk, future San Jose Sharks netminder. He is an undrafted goalie out of Russia’s MHL, VHL, and of course, the top KHL. He played for the touted SKA St. Petersburg club at all three levels while having success at all three. The home town kid in 16 games in 2019-20 for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, had an outstanding 1.68 GAA and a .930 SV%.
While waiting for the NHL season to commence Melnichuk went back to Russia on loan in order to keep getting in reps. He did not go back to his hometown SKA St. Petersburg team though. He went back to the KHL on loan to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod and did not disappoint. In 14 games before coming to the States, Melnichuk had a 2.68 GAA and a .912 SV% for Torpedo.
So if he is doing this well, then why have the Sharks not given him a full chance in net yet? The simple answer to that question is they want him to get some action in North America at the lower level AHL before becoming thrust into an NHL role. This is wise by the Sharks and covered very well in an article by a great writer in Alex Didion.
In this article, the next quote on Alexei Melnichuk by head coach Bob Boughner points right to the fact they don’t want to rush the kid.”He’s a big part of the future of this team, the plan would be for him to get some games with the Barracuda, which I know the Barracuda are going on an upcoming road trip, and I think that’s the plan to get him into some game action first,” Boughner told reporters Sunday morning.
The quote by Boughner continues, “I think the plan is to flip those guys and get some games for Melnichuk, but of course, yeah I think that is a big part of the future, and if we think he’s ready to make a difference and help the team out, then, of course, he’s going to get his chance.”
So it seems the Sharks basically just want Melnichuk to get his beak wet in the minors before having a role in the NHL. He did go five of five when thrust into a game against the Kings. If both fellow Sharks goalies Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk do not pick it up, Melnichuk might need to be the answer sooner rather than later. Boughner even pointed to this in his quote, pointing out the fact it seems one of these vet netminders mentioned above is to be likely flipped for the kid to get more time.
Can Alexei Melnichuk Fix the Current Netminder Problems
Both Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk have been brutal this season. So the Sharks either need to get a goalie in the market or take off the training wheels with Melnichuk. Jones has a 3.85 GAA and a .877 SV%. Where Dubnyk has a 3.46 GAA and a .892 SV%. So it is safe to say their numbers are not keeping anyone from getting a call-up and snatching the job.
In some defense of Jones and Dubnyk and to support why Alexei Melnichuk is not up yet, the Sharks defense has been atrocious. Bad goaltending combined with bad defense except for a select few is the ultimate bad combination. Mario Ferraro has been the lone standout on the defense thus far while getting tons of minutes early in his career. The Sharks rank 30th in goals allowed and 28th in shots on goal allowed.
So clearly, the San Jose Sharks are in no prime position defensively to allow a young goalie to flourish. However, that argument could have been made for the Blackhawks and Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen has stepped up beyond belief thus far for Chicago as a fellow undrafted player before they were anticipated to call upon him. So why not Melnichuk? This is a million-dollar question the Sharks are going to have to answer if Dubnyk and Jones cannot solve their woes or one is moved.
All that can be said now is from his numbers over in Russia just based on them, Alexei Melnichuk seems almost ready for the NHL. He dominated in Russia where Finland has a great league as well in the Liga, where Lankinen was a beast but not up to snuff with Russia. So Lankinen proving an undrafted netminder from overseas can emerge as a valuable starter only helps Alexei Melnichuk.
This kid is uber-talented just like Lankinen for the Hawks. It is understandable to not want to rush a goalie along. However, if Alexei Melnichuk keeps up his play and Jones and Dubnyk keep up their bad play they might need to think of rushing him just a wee bit. All in all the future is bright in the net for the Sharks as Melnichuk soon enough will be putting a big Sharks bite into opposing defenses.
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