A lot of things happened to Sergei Bobrovsky in the past year. The Flyers found the Metallurg Novokuznetsk goaltender because of scout Ken Khudyakov, who was actually working for another KHL team, Sibir Novosibirsk. The Flyers representatives met with Bobrovsky and his agent Vyacheslav Mahrenski in the spring, and soon after in early May, Bobrovsky was signed to a three year contract.
But a lot happened also in the years before. Bobrovsky's first goalie coach Alexei Kitsyn and the man who brought the 18 year old youngster up to the Metallurg team at the time, coach Sergei Nikolayev, tell us the defining moments of Bobrovsky's junior and early pro days.
"I finished my playing career in 1995 when I was 30 and started coaching my hometown school team. I got the kids that were born in 1988. I worked with them for ten years. One of those kids was Sergei."
Kitsyn says Bobrovsky is a multitalent and believes the goaltender could have been an effective forward as well.
"One thing came very clear to me over the years. Everything that Sergei really puts himself on, he succeeds in. If he hadn't played in goal, he would've grown into an excellent right wing or center."
"When he goes out on the ice, whether it's a game or practice, he gives it his all, nonstop. I never had any complaints about his attitude and his parents certainly deserve a lot of credit for that. They are extremely nice people who were always nice to talk to. They always trusted the coach, which is very important for the athlete's development."
"Hockey always came first to Sergei and it became more and more important to him in those years when I coached him. The lack of facilities and opportunities for ice time resulted in the fact that our team's on-ice practices were placed to start at 6:30 am. The Bobrovsky family lived at the other end of the town. It took him an hour to go to the rink. A lot of kids quit because of the inconvenient schedule, but Sergei was too devoted to hockey."
Bobrovsky didn't forget about his first coach either when he turned pro and moved onto play for Metallurg Novokuznetsk. In the press center of Metallurg's home arena, there's a photo of Bobrovsky in his first pro game and a text above it that says: "To my coach Alexei, with best wishes."
"I don't think I can take all the credit for bringing up Sergei", Kitsyn says. "When he first started as a goalie, we didn't have an actual goalie coach. So I just taught him the basic skills, how to stop the puck. But I'm sure that Sergei took all the best advices from everyone he worked with."
"I think that a great influence on his development as a goalie was the Metallurg goalie Vadim Tarasov, who was one of the best in Russia in those years. Three Golden Helmet Trophies are the best evidence of that."
"But I also remember one particular moment. Someone once compared Sergei to Vladislav Tretyak and he was a little upset and very quick in responding that 'I'm not Tretyak, I'm Bobrovsky'."
When Bobrovsky made his pro debut for Metallurg in a game against Atlant in the spring of 2007, the team was coached by Sergei Nikolayev who took the risk of throwing the 18 year old to the fire.
"Me and my assistant Mikhail Gomberg spent a long time scratching our bald heads, trying to figure who to put in goal against a team that had players like Sergei Mozyakin. Our goalie coach Dmitri Kuroshin insisted that we'd play Sergei Shabanov, but in the end I took the risk of playing Bobrovsky. He didn't disappoint."
"I'm happy for him today and won't forget his debut."
Nikolayev is another coach that Bobrovsky hasnt forgotten about either.
"Every time we meet he says: 'Thank you for everything, Sergei'."
"I think that in Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky, Russia has high quality goaltenders for years to come."
This report was based off of a Russian-language story in the publication Sports.