Posted: 03.04.2024 15:13:00

Keep it up!

Alexei Kolosov is flying overseas to become the first NHL goalie from Belarus 

The hockey players of Dinamo Minsk demonstrated a very bright, but no less controversial season to the audience. Loud victories and amazing games were followed by frustrating defeats, which made the feeling of incompleteness and slight bitterness the main aftertaste to the KHL Championship and the Gagarin Cup playoffs. Perhaps the only player who should receive no performance complaints and who covered the entire distance on an incredibly high and consistent level was Alexei Kolosov. Once a green, callow youth, whose goalie gear seemed way too loose for him, have grown into a real professional in a four-year period of playing for the ‘Bison’ club, having become one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise that after the end of the season at Dinamo Minsk, the Philadelphia Flyers, who had signed Kolosov to a three-year contract, called the net-minder to their camp, presumably putting a serious stake on the skill and reliability of the talented Belarusian in the near future.   

Alexei Kolosov, Belarusian goalkeeper        Evgeniya Gurskaya

Who knows, maybe in many years Alexei Kolosov will be remembered in Philadelphia with the same reverence as Bobby Clarke and Eric Lindros, the NHL mega-stars who made a name for themselves playing for the club. In any case, Kolosov’s potential is very high. Last season, Alexei played 42 regular season matches for Dinamo Minsk at a stable level and produced first-class goalkeeping performance in several matches. It is not surprising that the fan poll carried out by the Dinamo club at the end of the championship showed that it was Kolosov who was recognised as the best player of the team. This year, Alexei has played 47 matches for the ‘Bisons’ with 90.7% of saves, four shutouts and a reliability coefficient of 2.39. This is the eighth indicator in the entire Kontinental Hockey League, which is extremely high, taking into account the overall rating of the team. The recognition has found its hero again — Kolosov was called the best ‘Bison’ of the year. Such laurels for a goalie are a rarity and a great honour.
The fact that Philadelphia Flyers is experiencing the biggest issue with the goalkeeper position, which has been the Achilles’ heel of this team for years now, and is actively looking for a solution gives Kolosov an additional chance to demonstrate his skills and make himself known in the NHL. Felix Sandstrom, who is currently considered the main goalkeeper of the Flyers, clearly has not been at his best lately. The Swede has been in the squad since 2021, but his statistics on goals conceded are getting worse with each new season. The career of Carter Hart, who was seen almost as a goalkeeper messiah for the Flyers, is also going downhill — a unique talent, who was predicted to have the most stellar future, has been past his prime for three years now. In January, he even requested and was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the club, from which he has not yet returned. 
It is noteworthy that the Flyers have had bad luck with goalkeepers at all times. Perhaps, the brightest goalie in the club’s history was their recent general manager Ron Hextall, who earned a scandalous reputation. He holds the record for most penalty minutes by a goalie having accumulated more than 100 penalty minutes three seasons in a row, the loudest example of this guy’s aggression being his notorious attack on Chris Chelios, when Hextall suddenly attacked an opponent and began to punch him with a goalie blocker. The Flyers also had Russian goalkeepers. Thus, Ilya Bryzgalov, with whom they signed a 9-year contract for $51m, did not live up to the expectations, and the deal was later recognised as one of the worst in the NHL history. Ivan Fedotov did not fly to Philadelphia at all — the story of the CSKA goalkeeper’s conscription into the army is still fresh in everyone’s memory. The Flyers then put a stake on Kirill Ustimenko, a native of Gomel, but he never managed to move beyond playing for the farm club of the main team. Perhaps only Sergei Bobrovsky’s experience in the Philadelphia Flyers can be considered successful — the two years spent there became a brilliant springboard for his great future career. Why shouldn’t Alexei Kolosov follow in his footsteps?
Kolosov calls Andrei Mezin his idol in hockey — this legendary Belarusian goalie kept the net of the Belarusian national team intact for many years and became one of the heroes of the ‘miracle on ice’ when our team sensationally defeated the Swedes in the quarterfinals of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Mezin also played in the US and came back without fulfilling his dream — he did not make it to the NHL.   
“I can single out two of the NHL goalkeepers: Andrei Vasilevskiy from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ilya Sorokin, who plays for the New York Islanders,” Alexei Kolosov said after last season. “Vasilevskiy has a very unconventional style of play. He has a great physique in the first place: he is tall and very flexible. He can block the puck, which he does not even see, by intuitively setting a trap. Sorokin is a more systematic goalkeeper, a classic one.”   
Alexei treats the fact that he was selected by the Flyers in the NHL Entry Draft with philosophical calmness, “I was driving home after an evening training session when I started receiving calls with congratulations from my agent, a club representative… To be honest, I did not have any priority as to the clubs that were choosing me — I do not really cheer for anyone in the NHL. I just monitor the actions of goalkeepers. Now, however, I sometimes watch the results of the Philadelphia Flyers, out of curiosity.”   
Alexei Kolosov demonstrated a consistently high level in the playoff matches against Dynamo Moscow,  yet his reliability
did not help the ‘Bisons’ overcome the first round of the Gagarin Cup   

— What do you think it takes to play in the NHL? What is the main difference between the NHL and the KHL?
— There is no particular difference. A lot of guys go to the NHL from the KHL, and vice versa. Everyone knows how to play. The speed is higher in the NHL, of course. Yet, a professional hockey player should have all qualities honed — both physical and psychological. If a player is completely ready, there will be no problems.
Alexei Kolosov believes that the time has come, and he is ready for a new challenge. The fans are also excited and hope that everything will work out for their favourite. Vitaly Pinchuk, a Dinamo Minsk striker, does not cast a doubt on Alexei’s ability to succeed in the NHL. “Lyokha [short for ‘Alexei’] can do anything! He just needs to brush up on his English. Apart from that, I do not see any other obstacles. But it is no big deal — the main thing is to memorise the phrase ‘I’m hungry’ in English to say when he wants to fortify himself with food, and he will be fine!” Vitaly noted jokingly.  
Keep it up, Alexei! The country believes in you. 

Alexei Kolosov’s records and achievements

  • He became the first Belarusian goalkeeper to enter the CHL Import Draft — in the summer of 2020, he was selected 22nd overall by the Erie Otters in the first round.   
  • In the 2020/21 season, he made history as the youngest goalie of Dinamo Minsk during his time in the KHL. Kolosov played his first game on October 22nd, 2020, when the ‘Bisons’ met with Dynamo Moscow. At that time, he was 18 years and 291 days old.
  • On October 28th, 2020, he secured a shutout win for Dinamo Minsk and became the youngest shutout author in the club’s history (18 years, 9 months and 24 days old). 
  • In the summer of 2022, he became the first net-minder from Belarus selected in the NHL Draft — the Philadelphia Flyers selected Alexei in the third round, 78th overall. 
  • In May 2021, he made his debut at the World Cup as a member of the Belarusian national team. Entering the ice on May 24th in a match against the Czech Republic, he became the youngest goalkeeper of the national team at the World Championships. On the day of the game, Kolosov was 19 years, 4 months and 20 days old.  
  • He is the only Belarusian goalkeeper who took part in the KHL All-Star Game twice and was recognised as the best Dinamo Minsk player in the KHL season twice in a row.
By Sergei Kanashits