Last year—his first with the Avs—Varlamov went 26-24-3 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. The 24-year-old is under contract with Colorado through the 2013-14 season, but needs experience.
This current lockout has prevented him from playing in the NHL, so he took his talents overseas. Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reported that once the preseason was canceled, Varlamov was off to play in Europe:
Varlamov signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a team in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. It is the same team he played for before jumping to the NHL with the Washington Capitals in 2008.
The Avalanche netminder had been playing well in Russia, until he suffered a knee injury caused by a collision with Sergei Shirokov of CSKA, according to Adrian Dater of The Denver Post.
After missing a few weeks with the sidelining injury, Varlamov returned and played well in his first game back. He saved 24-of-25 shots on net for Yaroslavl in a 4-1 victory.
In 15 games this season for Lokomotiv, Varlamov has been standing on his head in net. He’s saved 453-of-477 shots his way for a .950 save percentage while only allowing 1.66 goals per game. If those numbers can translate back to the NHL once the Avs are back in session, Colorado is in extremely good shape.
But Colorado should be wary of the knee injury that he sustained in Russia. The details weren’t clear on what exactly happened or how serious the injury was. It could have been no big deal and he may have just needed some rest, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
As Dater points out, Varlamov has had knee issues in the past (via Greg Schimmel of The Washington Post). Back with the Capitals during the 2010-11 season, Varlamov missed considerable time with an apparent knee injury. After a Feb. 20 win over the Buffalo Sabres, he only played in three more games the rest of the regular season—missing about a month’s time.
The Avs are set up quite well just in case something is wrong with Varlamov’s knee once he returns. Jean-Sebastian Giguere is a fine backup and is also under contract through the 2013-14 season.
Colorado also has a slew of goalie prospects awaiting a chance to play in the NHL. Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio are both playing for Colorado’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, while Kent Patterson and Kieran Millan have been with the Denver Cutthroats of the Central Hockey League—also an affiliate of the Avs.
Dater recently caught up with Colorado’s vice president of player development Craig Billington to talk about the Avs’ young goalies:
I’m very encouraged by what I’m seeing from all of them, and how that position is in our organization right now. They’ve all had their moments. You see all four making strides. It’s all their first year of pro, and it’s not an easy task. But they’re all making contributions.
Now hopefully Varlamov will be completely healthy when he returns to the Avalanche, but each of these four prospects—along with Giguere—will be waiting for his opportunity to start for Colorado if Varlamov's not.