Wild prospect Khudobin a winner

By Simon Richard

The Russian Selects won the first two games of the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge against the QMJHL players, even though the latter overall played better hockey, particularly in the first game in Quebec City.

In those two games, the main advantage for the Russians was in the goal crease. Goaltender Anton Khudobin was named the player of the first game. In the second one, he was named the game’s third star.

That night, 34 seconds after his teammates tied the game with a mere two minutes remaining in the game, Khudobin made a remarkable save on David Laliberte who was left alone in front of him.

Then, in overtime Khodobin repeated his success of the previous night stopping each of the four shootout attempts by the QMJHL Stars.

After that game, QMJHL Player of the game Marc-Antoine Pouliot told the reporters that the Russian forwards were known to be very effective in the shootouts. He was right, but Khodobin deserved some credit for the victory, too.

“When the pressure was there, my teammates played all together,” said Khodobin to Hockey’s Future after the game in Montreal on November 23rd. “The team showed a lot of character.

“We are strong in the shootouts. At this point, we were pretty confident to win,” added the Russian goalie.

A winner

Born in Ust-Kamenogorsk in Kazakhstan, Khudobin was the leading goaltender of the Russian team that won the Under-18 World Junior Championship in Minsk in April 2004.

“I saw him winning the gold medal in Belarus and in some other tournaments last year,” said Minnesota Wild Assistant General Manager Tom Thompson in the Bell Centre before the second game.

“He is used to playing under pressure and has a very good track record of playing well in big games", said Thompson. "He has been a winner. He made a number of acrobatic saves in Quebec City. He is an alert goalie and has a very good hockey sense."

Khudobin is a 5’10’’, 187-pound goalie. Asked if his small size is a concern for the Wild organization, Thompson answered, “We have not measured him because he did not come to our camp yet. The way the goalies are in the NHL now in terms of size, he is under the average. But he has got everything else. Recall that there are a number of small goalies in the NHL."

A different game in North America

It was the first visit to Canada for Khodobin. His sole experience in North America was in 2000 while he playing at the Tretiak Cup.

He liked the experience of playing in both games in Quebec City and Montreal before flying back to Russia.

He talked to HF in the Bell Centre about the differences for goalies playing in North America.

“There are much more shots here and they come from everywhere", said Khudobin. "The goalie has to move very fast and keep always concentred. In Russia, the game is more a position one with a lot of passes. Here, the forwards shoot, shoot and shoot. We have to be alert.”

The Future?

Russian Selects Head-coach Sergei Gersonsky told HF that there are 5 or 6 places left on the roster of the 2004 U-20 Russian Team that will play in North Dakota next month.

Gersonsky declined to confirm to HF any name as a lock deal in the team, not even Alexander Ovechkin.

Considering his record, it is safe to say that Khubodin will make it. Like Thompson said, he is a winner. He also played in both U-20 Four Nations tournaments this season, in the Czech Republic in September and in Sweden a couple of weeks ago.

“I don’t know if I’ll be selected for the upcoming WJC", said Khudobin. "I hope that I will but the decision remains in the hands of the coaches. Meanwhile, my focus is on stopping the pucks.”

Where will he play next season?

“It depends the way I’ll play in the next months", said the Russian goalie. "I have signed for two seasons with Metallurg Magnitodorsk but I would definitely like to play in the NHL. That is my dream,” stated Khudobin.

Conclusion

Khudobin’s role models are Nikolai Khabibulin and Kazakhstan-born Evgeny Nabokov.

Khudobin was a late selection at the 2004 NHL Draft, having been selected in the seventh round by the Minnesota Wild. However, the history of past NHL Drafts shows that there are many goaltenders who have had a lot of success after being late round selection. And ironically, among the late round selections are 2001 Calder Memorial Trophy winner Nabokov and 2004 Stanley Cup winner Khabibulin, both of whom are former ninth round picks.

Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.