Meet Pyotr Kochetkov, the Hurricanes' new goalie who loves to fight

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Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov of the Carolina Hurricanes squares up after a hit in the crease from Brad Marchand. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov of the Carolina Hurricanes squares up after a hit in the crease from Brad Marchand. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

We have our first breakout star of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it's safe to bet few players will be as entertaining.

Meet Pyotr Kochetkov, the newest goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes. Kochetkov was thrust into action Wednesday night after Antti Raanta was ruled out of the remainder of the contest following a collision with Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand. Frederik Andersen, Carolina’s No. 1 goalie, is still recovering from a lower-body injury so Kochetkov made the most of his opportunity, leading his team to a 5-2 victory.

So, aside from the fact that Carolina’s third-string goalie made 30 saves in a crucial Game 2 victory, what makes him so special? This dude absolutely loves to fight, and showed no fear trying to take on Marchand. After exchanging a few stick taps, Kochetkov jabbed at Marchand, imploring him to throw hands, but the Bruins’ pest backed down.

“I don’t know if he’s crazy,” Hurricanes star forward Sebastian Aho said of Kochetkov to The Athletic’s Sara Civian. “Funny guy. Obviously, he doesn’t speak much English, but he’s trying, and I feel like I understand pretty good what he’s saying every time. He’s a pretty good guy. Everyone likes him. He fits well.”

It would be so easy to attribute Kochetkov taking on Marchand to the heightened spirits of the postseason, but this is absolutely in his wheelhouse. As a member of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, Kochetkov challenged the entire Iowa Wild bench after getting hit in the face with a stick during his first North American professional game.

During an after-the-whistle scrum in a game against the Milwaukee Admirals, Kochetkov skated the length of the ice in an attempt to fight Milwaukee’s goalie Connor Ingram. The referees cut off a furious Kochetkov, who was ready to go on a moment’s notice.

This dude isn’t just a mere gimmick, though. After coming over to North America following the conclusion of his KHL season, Kochetkov dominated at the AHL level, going 13-1-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average and 9.21 save percentage with the Chicago Wolves. He also went 3-0-0 in a short stint with the big club at the end of the season.

The 22-year-old was selected 36th overall in the 2019 draft and could be a long-term solution for the Hurricanes, especially if Andersen and Raanta continue to battle injuries in their mid-30s. Kochetkov was also named the best goaltender at the 2019 World Juniors and, evidently, no stage is too big for him.

It took a few nights, but the Stanley Cup playoffs are officially underway. A star is born and his name is Pyotr Kochetkov.

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