The premature end to the KHL season combined with the current pause in the NHL season has front offices looking even closer than usual at the free agents coming out of Europe’s top league. KHL free agency opens on May 1 and a number of players will be expected to make the jump to North America on that date. Young goaltender Alexei Melnichuk of SKA St. Petersburg is expected to be part of that group, reports TSN’s Darren Dreger.
According to Dreger, a number of NHL teams have been impressed by the play of the 21-year-old Melnichuk this season. He believes that it is down to three or four teams competing for his services right now. Melnichuk, who is represented by super-agent Dan Milstein, expects to have whittled it down to just one by the end of April. Melnichuk will not have much say in the term and value of his contract, an entry-level deal, but will make his decision based on fit and NHL opportunity. There have been no specific teams linked to Melnichuk at this moment, but there are plenty of potential suitors looking for a young depth and even an heir apparent.
This season, Melnichuk made 16 appearances in his rookie season with KHL powerhouse SKA. He posted a very impressive .930 save percentage and 1.68 GAA, finishing twelfth and fourth respectively among league goaltenders. Of course, Melnichuk made far fewer appearances than the other top KHL goalies above him in the rankings and fellow St. Petersburg keepers Magnus Hellberg and Alexander Samonov were equally impressive behind a stout defense. Yet, Melnichuk also excelled with SKA’s VHL minor league team, recording a .925 save percentage and 1.95 GAA in eight regular season appearances and leading the team on a postseason run with a .937 save percentage and 2.16 GAA in ten starts. His numbers in the VHL last season are also stunningly good. Melnichuk may be young and could be a few years away from an NHL job, but has all the makings of a goalie who can make the jump one day.