Ivan Fedotov’s long and difficult journey reaches Flyers; so what’s next?

Ivan Fedotov’s long and difficult journey reaches Flyers; so what’s next? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ivan Fedotov was selected by the Flyers in the final round of the 2015 NHL draft over eight and a half years ago.

He didn’t spend last season in an ice hockey rink. He was sent to a remote military base in northern Russia.

He’s 27 years old.

And there he was Friday, holding up a Flyers jersey alongside general manager Danny Briere.

An NHL dream realized. Finally.

“It has been a long time,” the towering goalie said. “Now I’m here.”

Fedotov signed his one-year entry-level contract with the Flyers in May 2022, signaling his plan to come to North America and compete for a roster spot. Not even two months later, he was suddenly detained for allegedly evading military service in his home country of Russia.

After Fedotov fulfilled his military duty, the doubt surrounding his future with the Flyers only grew. He returned to the net, but did so by signing a two-year deal with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow, while his NHL contract was deemed valid.

One would think, at some point, the Flyers had lost hope that a day like Friday would ever arrive.

“It has been a long time, it has been a long time,” Briere said with a smile. “We were always, I think, hopeful that he would come. But it has been a long road. I give him a lot of props to keep pushing and finally have the chance to come here. Hopefully it’s a new chapter for him and he gets to start his NHL career and goes off on the right foot.”

Fedotov’s KHL deal was terminated Thursday and CSKA Moscow wished the goaltender well.

On Friday morning, the Flyers were introducing him in Voorhees, New Jersey.

“I’m so excited and happy to be here,” Fedotov said. “Great feelings because it was a really difficult two years.”

The 6-foot-7, 200-pounder went through an on-ice workout with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, skills coach Angelo Ricci and new teammates Nick Seeler, Jamie Drysdale, Marc Staal, Nicolas Deslauriers and Denis Gurianov.

For now, Briere declined to comment on the specifics behind the timeline of Fedotov’s arrival.

“All we did was we followed the lead of the NHL, got clarification on what we were allowed to do and how we could do it,” Briere said. “So everything was done properly on our end.”

The Flyers have seen a lot change in their net since Jan. 23, when Carter Hart requested a personal leave of absence because of a sexual assault case. Fedotov will immediately take on the role of Samuel Ersson‘s backup. Felix Sandstrom, with the club on an emergency loan, reported back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

“We’ve been upfront, Sam was kept in the loop, Felix was kept in the loop,” Briere said. “We try to be as open as we can with our players and it was going to affect them. But at the same time, we told Sam, you’ve earned the right to be the No. 1, we believe in you, we trust in you. We’ve been upfront with both of them.”

The Flyers have eight regular-season games remaining and are looking to nail down a playoff berth. They have one more back-to-back set when they visit the Sabres next Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Blue Jackets the following day (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Last month, head coach John Tortorella said he would not overwork Ersson, a 24-year-old rookie in his first full NHL season. Briere said playing time for Fedotov will be determined by Tortorella and Dillabaugh.

“You know how it works here, Torts is in charge of that,” Briere said. “[Fedotov will] be available, he’ll be on the ice, he’ll be with the team practicing. The coaching staff will decide if he plays or not.”

Fedotov is slated to be an unrestricted free agent when this season wraps up. Both sides are interested in a contract extension.

“I hope it will be a long time together,” Fedotov said.

Danny Briere, Ivan Fedotov

Danny Briere, Ivan Fedotov

Friday was not Fedotov’s first time at Flyers Training Center. He had been to the facility for some summer development camps in his earlier days as a prospect. He met Ersson at the 2018 camp.

This season, Fedotov recorded a 2.37 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and four shutouts in 44 games with CSKA Moscow. He had a 2.57 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in five playoff games.

In 2021-22, the season prior to his required military service, Fedotov was named a finalist for the KHL’s Best Goalie Award after going 14-10-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .919 save percentage during the regular season. He was even better in the playoffs, leading CSKA Moscow to a championship with 16 wins, a 1.85 goals-against average and .937 save percentage through 22 games.

He also represented Russia at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and won a silver medal. He went 4-2-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

Fedotov, eager to help the Flyers’ playoff push, knows there will be an adjustment from the KHL to the NHL.

“It’s more faster, but for me, it’s really good,” he said. “I like it when the game is as fast as possible.

“Everyone knows the players are really good at playing in front of the net, behind, it’s more some deflections and scorers. But it’s the same thing for all goalies, in Russia you have to be focused on the puck, don’t think too much.”

The Flyers have been impressed with Fedotov’s resolve.

“That’s what gives us confidence that he can come and help us,” Briere said. “He has been through a lot in his career, he has been through a lot in his life, his personal life. He keeps fighting, he keeps getting better, he keeps working at his craft, so it’s a big part of the reason why we feel comfortable and we’re excited to have him aboard.”

The club has talked highly about its locker room and how it has been instrumental to the organization’s turnaround in a rebuilding season. The Flyers aren’t worried about the Fedotov storyline being a distraction at a critical time.

“Hopefully it’s a little bit of a boost,” Briere said. “We’re coming down the stretch. You can’t make trades anymore, so hopefully it’s a little bit of a boost and everybody gets excited so we can finish strong and find a way to get into the playoffs. Obviously that’s the No. 1 thing around here these days.”

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