The Washington Capitals have announced goalie Sergey Kostenko has signed a contract with the Hershey Bears for the 2012-13 AHL season. Kostenko, 19, was the Capitals' 7th round draft pick (203rd overall) last month and had an impressive showing at the second half of the Capitals' Summer Development Camp after arriving mid-week from Russia.
It is unusual fo teenagers to play in the AHL because of the rules surrounding Canadian Major Junior players who are not eligible until age 20, but recent Capitals draft picks John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov both played in the AHL as teens. This is likely the best thing for Kostenko's development, as Russia is not known for consistently producing technically sound goaltenders. The last Capitals' Russian goalie draft pick, Semyon Varlamov, stayed in Russia for another year after the draft but hired a Finnish goalie coach to help his technical game.
It is not clear what Kostenko's role will be with the Bears with Dany Sabourin returning to the team and Philipp Grubauer's expected promotion from the ECHL. Based on past experience, it is quite likely Kostenko will open the season with the ECHL Reading Royals, which will give him plenty of playing time and give Capitals' goalie coach Olaf Kolzig plenty of time to work with him. It is likely he'll get a look at the AHL level, and he may even open the season with the Bears if Grubauer has not fully recovered from his surgery by opening night.
This is unexpected news, but certainly good news. Only time will tell, but the Capitlas may have stolen a forgotten Russian goalie at the end of the Draft and now have convinced him to play in North America next season so he can better develop into a potential NHL regular.
Read Alex DeYoung's scouting report on Kostenko here.