Goalie Ilya Konovalov makes debut for Edmonton Oilers rookies

Goaltender Ilya Konovalov will finally play a game in Edmonton Oilers colours Monday night when the Oilers rookies visit the Calgary Flames rookies.

Konovalov, 23, was drafted in the third round by the Oilers in 2019. He has a unique story, not being drafted until he was 21 years old.

“I was a little bit late. I played in the KHL. Scouts probably noticed me a little bit later,” said Konovalov through the translation of teammate Ostap Safin.

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Konovalov was KHL Rookie of the Year in 2018/19, posting a .930 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average in 45 games. He’s had two more good seasons since and now is in Oilers rookie camp for the first time.

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“I see somebody who is serious and professional. I see somebody who is comfortable,” said Oilers rookies head coach Jay Woodcroft.

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Konovalov, listed at 6’0″ and 194 pounds, goes against the grain of the modern goalie. A lot of the NHL’s top tenders are well over six feet.

“I’m not the biggest guy, but there are goalies like Price, Saros, Khudobin, but they are quick and make good saves. I’m a kind of that goalie,” explained Konovalov.

“It’s not about where his height was measured during the physicals. It’s about playing to his strengths, relaxing in there,” said Woodcroft. “I’m excited to see where he’s at.”

Konovalov is from Yaroslavl and plays for his home town team. On September 7, 2011, the entire Yaroslavl team and coaching staff was killed in a plane crash.

“I was a little kid when it happened. I don’t remember it much. It’s an honour to play for the jersey and the whole city,” Konovalov said.

The Oilers rookies beat the Flames rookies 4-3 at Rogers Place Saturday night. Oilers main training camp starts on Wednesday.

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