8 Jul, 24
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CRANBERRY, Pa.  – Sergei Murashov has been somewhat of a mystery.

A fourth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2022, the goalie’s stats easily available. A 70-30-12 record across four seasons in the Russian junior league, including 22 shutouts and a .934 save percentage, garners attention. But game film has been sparse, and the geopolitical climate in recent years has made visits from scouts more infrequent.

Murashov was a last-minute addition to the Penguins’ development camp roster this year, and in his first media availability in North America, the enigmatic prospect added another level of intrigue to his story. Where will he play hockey in the fall?

“To be honest, I need to make a decision,” Murashov said on Monday. “Because I have different ways for my next season. This development camp is also for me to watch how it works in the USA, how Pittsburgh looks like. That is why now I can’t answer this question.”

Murashov then proceeded to outline his options for the 2024-25 campaign. He could return to Russia, where he would play for his hometown club, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and compete for time in the KHL. He could sign with another Russian club and battle for playing time that way. A third option would be to sign with Pittsburgh and come to the United States.

This decision could affect the goaltending depth chart from top to bottom in the Penguins organization. Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic project as the tandem with the big club for the second-straight season. Joel Blomqvist is looking to follow up his AHL All-Star rookie campaign with bigger and better things, as is Taylor Gauthier, who won the ECHL’s Goalie of the Year Award. Lastly, Swedish standout Filip Larsson was signed by Pittsburgh back in late April.

All five of those goalies are on NHL contracts. Murashov would add another. According to PuckPedia, Penguins are currently at 48 total contracts, with the limit being 50.

On the first day of development camp, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant general manager Jason Spezza was also asked about the potential of Murashov shuttling overseas this season. While Spezza was quick to point out the complexities of the situation, he also didn’t shut down the possibility of the right-hand catching netminder wearing Black & Gold this year.

“Things are a little bit more complicated sometimes when it comes to the Russian players and just determining their eligibility,” Spezza said. “But Sergei is a guy we’d like to have over if it works out. And if not, we’ll put him on the right development path over in Russia.”

To no surprise, Murashov said that he tries to model his game after a handful of other exceptional Russian goalies, including Igor Shesterkin and recent Stanley Cup Champion Sergei Bobrovsky. However, he also made a point to mention how he has taken inspiration from Jarry. In his short time working on the ice with Kain Tisi and behind the scenes with Andy Chiodo this week, Murashov said he could identify elements of Jarry in the instruction he was receiving from the goaltending coaches.

Unlike Jarry, Murashov already logged seven games of pro experience before his 20th birthday. Murashov appeared in one KHL game for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in 2022-23, then six more contests this past season. Combined, he went 4-1-2 with one shutout, 1.71 goals against average, .928 save percentage, and a wealth of valuable experience.

“It was a great challenge for me,” Murashov said. “It’s a higher level. I really enjoyed it, every game. There were really good games, and I loved it. It was a great experience, and it shows me that I could be better, where I have really good things.”

Will Murashov be adding NHL training camp experience to his résumé this fall? And could the AHL be in his future sooner than expected? The answers to those questions are still murky, but the wait will only serve to add to the mystery that has become Sergei Murashov.

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