A Russian gem accidentally discovered by Bobrov

Last year, Nick Bobrov went out of his way to keep an eye on Mamonty Yugry, a Russian Junior League (MHL) team based in Khanty Mansi, in western Siberia.

Working remotely due to the sociopolitical context of his native Russia, the Montreal Canadiens co-director of amateur scouting no doubt spied on goaltender Yegor Zavragin, who would later become a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers. Zavragin was expected to share the net with Alexander Dyubin that season (2022-2023).

Then Dyubin injured his ankle. A man named Yevgeni Volokhin, who was supposed to spend a year with the under-18 team, then got an unexpected opportunity in the Russian major juniors.

“He started playing really well and suddenly we had Volohin in the starting position at the beginning of the season,” the organization’s general manager, Sergei Gusev, a former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman, said by phone. From that moment on, Bobrov was on his trail.”

While it was hard to find any video of Volokhin or any reports of him in the moments after the Canadiens selected him in the fifth round in 2023 (144th overall), it’s not surprising. Volohin was not even supposed to play in the MHL last year. He barely came out of the shadows in Russia, taking advantage of a chance he didn’t expect.

“I received several calls regarding him, from the Canadiens and the New York Rangers (the former team Bobrov worked for, editor’s note), Gusev said. Will he be recruited? We weren’t sure.”

The first generation of hockey players

Only recently, the city of Khanty-Mansiysk, the capital of the Khanty Mansi district, plunged into the world of hockey. HC Yugra structures were established in 2006.

“Fifteen years ago, there was no hockey here, at all. Then suddenly they opened a school for children and created a club”, explains Gusev.

So, Volohin does not come from a hockey family, but not at all. His father works on an emergency hotline in Russia, the equivalent of an emergency service there.

It was at that hockey school that was opened, HK Ugra, that Volohin was spotted by Dmitriy Mezentsev, who today is the goalie coach overseeing CH’s hopes.

“The first quality I liked about him was his mentality,” recalls Mezencev. In my opinion, this is a key factor in the success of a goalkeeper. He wasn’t tall at the time, but he was very active in front of his net. He now has very good size and is athletically built, in addition to having great strength of character.

A beautiful project

Both Bobrov and Martin Lapointe used the word “potential” to describe the appeal of selecting the enigmatic Volokhin. But what makes this potential so exciting about the Russian goalkeeper?

“It is difficult to isolate one element,” hesitates Mezencev. As I mentioned earlier, he has good size and is athletically built, but he also understands the game well and can hold the fort under pressure when the score is tight.

When Guillaume Lefrançois de the newspaper asked Jeff Gorton which CH hopes in the NCAA and in Europe excited him the most, among other things he mentioned Volohin, which is a sign that the latter is popular in the offices of that organization.

Mezentsev admits that Volokhin is “just at the beginning of his journey” and that “several things will have to be corrected in the near future.” He still thinks big for his student.

“I believe he has what it takes to one day fight with the best players and the best goalkeepers in the best league in the world,” said the coach. It’s obviously too early to say, but he can become a good goalkeeper.”

The fight between Volohin and Zavragin promises to be interesting in the coming months, even years. He is currently surpassed in the hierarchy by Zavragin, who won starts in the VHL (Russian second league, equivalent to the American League) this season.

“Zavragin is currently more mature, I would say. The job of goalkeeper is natural for him, he got it thanks to his talent. Volohin gained ground thanks to his work ethic. He is a hard worker,” explains Gusev, the general director of the organization.

He rejected SKA’s offer

St. Petersburg SKA, the richest team in the continental hockey circuit (KHL), tried in vain to seduce Volohkin with an offer during the last off-season.

Gusev believes that Volohin refused the offer well, despite his SKA prestige.

“SKA has a lot of goalkeepers in its organization. They just want to take all the good hopes for themselves. I would say that our goalkeeper coach is much better than theirs. Volohin will have more opportunities with us and will learn more playing with us than with SKA.”

It is impossible to confirm, but it could also be speculated that Nick Bobrov’s father, a recruiter for this wealthy organization, played a role in this attempt. A hypothesis, nothing more, nothing less.


Yevgeny Volokhin

  • 6 feet 3 inches and 168 lbs.
  • Catching from the left side
  • 5th round pick (144th overall) by the Canadiens in 2023

Volokhin’s statistics

9-2-3 | 1.57 | .937 with Mamonty Yugry in the MHL

Zavragin Statistics

6-1-2 | 1.63 | .945 with Mamonty Yugry in the MHL

4-0-0 | 1.24 | .953 with the Khanty-Mansiysk Yugra in the VHL

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