The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Eight writers have ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022, in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of value to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
The newest Colorado Avalanche goalie prospect Ivan Zhigalov waited a long time to hear his name called at the NHL Entry Draft. Not only was he eligible in the 2021 draft and went unselected, but he had to sit through 224 picks in the 2022 draft before hearing his name called at 225th overall, which was the very last pick in the draft. It was an extra special moment because he was in attendance with his billet family in Montreal and got to have the full draft experience of the announcement, meeting the team including Joe Sakic, participating in the interviews, and taking draft photos in Avalanche gear. Zhigalov was the first in-person pick the Avalanche had made since the 2019 draft so it was nice watching a new prospect enjoy the draft festivities.
Zhigalov hails from Minsk, Belarus, but played for several years as a youth in Russia for Dynamo Moscow’s system. Then he was chosen in the CHL import draft in 2021 and agreed to join the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL in order to acclimate to North American hockey and naturally get in front of more NHL scouts.
In Quebec he had a successful season posting a 26-9-3 record with 2.84 goals against average and a .892 save percentage. Zhigalov was the number two ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting and was invited to the CHL Top Prospect’s Game where he produced this highlight reel save.
This fall, Zhigalov will experience another first as he heads to Ontario to join the Kingston Frontenacs after Sherbrooke released his rights and Zhigalov went back into the CHL import draft. Kingston pounced and signed their new goaltender to a contract to have him remain in Canada for the upcoming season. Although Zhigalov was not able to attend Avalanche development camp on short notice after the draft, the hope is he will be able to participate in next month’s rookie camp and tournament.
In the net Zhigalov is a right-handed catching goalie with quick agility and feet but needs a lot of refinement in the technical aspects of the game. He also has a long frame to fill out and gain strength as he develops. As he was drafted out of the CHL, the Avalanche have only two years to decide to offer Zhigalov an Entry Level Contract but as he is now entering his 19-year-old season he could begin to play professional hockey on an AHL contract as soon as the 2023-24 season.
Zhigalov offers intriguing upside as part of the Avalanche’s depleted two-pick 2022 draft class and adds goaltending depth to the organization as they hadn’t added a goalie to the pipeline since Trent Miner in 2019. With some hands-on work with Avalanche coaches and development staff, they can try to round out the raw parts of Zhigalov’s game and get him ready for pro hockey hopefully sooner than later.