Andrei Medvedev to start in Russian Super League

By Eugene Belashchenko

Andrei Medvedev has been a bit of a tease with the hockey community over the
past few seasons. Every year he seemed to arrive in training camp even more
overweight than usual, dashing any hopes Spartak Moscow’s fans or management
had in the young goalie to inherit the starting job, or at times even the back
up job that has been reserved for him. Things appeared to improve for Medvedev
last year, as he shared the starting job with Oleg Glebov all season long. The
young goaltender even went on a diet, losing some weight and getting into relatively
decent playing shape. However, Medvedev’s performance was average behind
a clearly dominant defense, and when the time came to choose the goalie for
Spartak’s playoff run; the club’s coach went with Glebov, leaving
Medvedev on the bench.

During the 2003-04 season, Spartak finished in second place in the league,
earning a promotion out of the High League (Russia 2) and into the Super League
(Russia 1). During the summer, Spartak retooled its lineup to better prepare
for the stiffer Super League level of competition. As part of the retooling,
the club’s management signed goaltender Alexei Volkov, who is a former
Los Angeles Kings prospect and a proven starter in the Super League. The move
came as a bit of a shock, as it meant that Medvedev’s prospects for playing
during the 2004-05 season were all but over.

The projections held true in early September, with Glebov starting and Volkov
backing him up, while Medvedev watched the games from the stands. Shockingly,
after three solid starts for Spartak, Oleg Glebov retired at the height
of his career. Even more shocking was his reason for retiring — the talented netminder was afraid of flying. Regardless of Glebov’s reasons for retiring, the improbable turn of events gave Andrei Medvedev a great opportunity
to get back into the rotation, and the former U20 gold medalist did not waste
the opportunity.

With Glebov’s departure, Alexei Volkov inherited the starting job and
Andrei Medvedev took over the back up duties. Volkov started off hot, carrying
his club to an improbably victory over last year’s champ Avangard. However,
after just five complete games in net, Volkov started to trail off and had to
be pulled in two of his next three starts.

Meanwhile, Medvedev delivered when called upon and appeared to be ready for
a chance to take the starter role. His chance came on September 27th against
the veteran filled club Ak Bars Kazan. Those not familiar with Medvedev’s
career will likely not realize that there is an important connection between
the young goaltender and the wealthy Super League club. As a 15-year-old kid,
Medvedev made his debut with Spartak against this exact club, stifling Ak Bars
and bringing home the improbable victory. Over five years later, Medvedev still
has Kazan’s number, and his club earned a much needed victory. Just two
days later Medvedev received another start and, despite losing the game to Neftkhimik,
the young goaltender performed well and stopped all but two of the 24 shots
he faced.

Throughout his professional career, Medvedev always appeared to be up to a
challenge, though at times he would set the unnecessary challenge up for himself.
Part of the reason why he may not have performed extremely well at the High
League level last season could be because he really did not have to in order
to win the games. Spartak was the top team by far in the league’s western conference
and most of the time Medvedev really just had to merely be there in net in order to
earn the victory. Now, Medvedev is faced with a new challenge, that of capturing
a starting job in the best league outside the NHL. And the talented net minder
appears to be up to the task.

Andrei Medvedev’s dossier:
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 242.0 lb
Born: April 1st, 1983
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
NHL Draft: Calgary Flames #56/2001

Andrei Medvedev’s photograph courtesy of the Soviet Wings press department.