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Ilya Samsonov: Capitals rookie goaltender a Calder Trophy contender

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Ask Evgeny Kuznetsov about Ilya Samsonov, and you get a warm laugh. “That’s my buddy,” Kuznetsov says mischievously, chilling in his stall after a morning skate in Ottawa. And he refuses to say much more. He doesn’t want to give the Samsonov the satisfaction of reading any more glowing press about himself. It’s all too novel and exciting, Kuznetsov explains. There’s also a ton of it coming out of late.

Fair enough. Maybe Kuznetsov doesn’t want to mess with a good thing. Before Samsonov and the Washington Capitals lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins this past Sunday, he’d won 11 straight decisions, becoming the third rookie goalie ever to do so, posting a .936 save percentage in the process. Even after Sunday’s letdown, the rookie netminder holds a 16-3-1 record on the year with a 2.21 goal-against average and .923 SP. He’s one of four goalies ever to win 16 of their first 20 career games. He apparently isn’t aware of how good the numbers have been.

“No, I didn’t see my record,” Samsonov said, still working through his broken but improving English. “But my partners told me. For me, it doesn’t matter.”

He endured some growing pains when he transitioned to the AHL last season, but he’s looking every bit like the megaprospect Washington took in the first round of the 2015 draft – a class that looks more and more like an all-timer each year.

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