According to Evgeni Nabokov, what do prospective San Jose Barracuda goalies Eetu Makiniemi, Magnus Chrona, and Georgi Romanov have in common?
“It’s hard not to notice that all the goalies are pretty good size and they’re pretty mobile, quick, athletic, play really good [positioning],” the San Jose Sharks director of goaltending told Nick Nollenberger during Monday’s Rookie Faceoff.
Makiniemi is 6-foot-2, Romanov is 6-foot-4, and Chrona is 6-foot-5. So no short kings allowed?
“It’s not only size we looked at,” the winningest netminder in San Jose Sharks history, “just” 6-foot-0 himself, shared. “We looked at all other aspects of the goaltending. And when you see a quick goalie, an athletic goalie with decent hands, can read the play really well, then you look at the size.
“Sometimes size could be actually against you because you may have too many holes. Holes [are] hard to cover.”
He concluded: “So the size is not as big an aspect as everybody thinks.
“Two years ago, we actually had smaller goalies, and now, we have bigger guys.”
Nabokov was referring to a San Jose Sharks pipeline which has featured, in recent years, 6-foot-0 Aaron Dell, 6-foot-0 Strauss Mann, 6-foot-1 Josef Korenar, 6-foot-1 Zach Sawchenko, and 6-foot-1 Alexei Melnichuk.
So maybe size doesn’t matter to the San Jose Sharks organization? But it’s what they’ve got, starting with the tallest one of them all, Magnus Chrona.
The 2018 Tampa Bay Lightning fifth-rounder was acquired in Apr. 2021 for veteran defenseman Fredrik Claesson.
“He was always quick. He was always athletic,” Nabokov said. “Sometimes, they make a trade because they like certain abilities, and then, we’ve got to get to work, right?”
Chrona has flourished since the trade, highlighted by winning the national championship with the University of Denver in 2022.
“In Denver, they did a really good job of developing him,” Nabokov said. “He grew tremendously in terms of goaltending, and he built a better foundation for himself. I will give all the credit to his goalie coach [Ryan Massa].”
The San Jose Sharks signed the 23-year-old keeper this summer, and he’ll be entering his first pro season.
Unlike Chrona, Georgi Romanov has pro hockey experience, though mostly in Russia’s second-division VHL. Also signed this past summer, he’s about to make his North American pro debut.
Kazak native Nabokov knows all about the transition from a foreign country to North America. So he stressed how key it is for Romanov to acclimate himself to the locker room.
“The biggest thing is he’s got to be involved with the teammates. He’s got to be part of the team. He’s got to learn the language. That’s going to be huge for him,” Nabokov said. “He has to understand the coaching staff, and I will help, but he needs to be on the ice and on the bench and in the locker room with your coaches and your players, so they trust you in net.”
Considering Chrona and Romanov’s inexperience, it’s good that Eetu Makiniemi, who’s got two years of AHL experience and even two NHL games under his belt, is around.
Problem is, Makiniemi is still coming back from a season-ending hip injury last February.
“He’s recovering pretty nicely and we’re going week by week. We’ll see where he’s at every week. He’s making really good strides. We try not to set certain dates,” Nabokov said. “When he is pain-free and he’s comfortable and ready to go 100 percent on the ice, he will be out there.”
Makinieimi is back on the ice and working directly with Nabokov.
Nabokov working with Makiniemi after Captain’s Skate, good to see Eetu back on the ice after his last season was cut short by injury pic.twitter.com/RGNhJ5xfkm
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 13, 2023
“He’s very calm. He’s very patient on his feet, and he just needs experience under his belt,” Nabokov said. “And unfortunately, little injuries [are] staying in his way.”
Will Makiniemi be ready for the beginning of the regular season? Could the Barracuda start the year with two netminders in Chrona and Romanov with zero AHL or NHL experience? Or might the San Jose Sharks pluck a veteran goalie off waivers?
Sharks training camp starts tomorrow, Barracuda camp follows in short order, and the Cuda open the season on Oct. 13.
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