Leading up to the Blackhawks’ 2018 development camp, The Rink will profile the Hawks’ top 10 unsigned prospects.
Next on the list at 6th is goaltender Ivan Nalimov of Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
2017–18 Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Russia)
Date of Birth: August 12, 1994
Place of Birth: Novokuznetsk, Russia
Weight: 209 lbs
Acquired: 2014 NHL Entry Draft, 6th round, 179th overall
Ivan Nalimov is among the more intriguing prospects in the Blackhawks’ system of late. Earlier this summer, he made his desire to come to North America known, but the Blackhawks have stated they are not ready to bring him over yet. This was an interesting decision for the team, as they clearly have question marks in goal, despite having a slew of goaltenders already under contract in Corey Crawford, Anton Forsberg, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen. The Blackhawks then signed Cam Ward in free agency, adding to the contingency in the crease. However, many feel the Blackhawks had nothing to lose by bringing over Nalimov and giving him a shot. If things did not work out, he could return to Russia or be dealt. But instead, Nalimov remains unsigned in Russia with a murky future with the Blackhawks.
Nalimov has a huge frame and uses it to his advantage. He likes coming out of the crease to cut down shooters’ angles. Nalimov enjoys moving in the net, but can sometimes get out of position doing so. He does not mind throwing his big body in the way of shots, using his aggressive style to stop the puck however needed.
Reactions and reflexes are perhaps Nalimov’s biggest strengths. He has come up with some highlight-reel saves thanks to his ability to flash his glove quickly to take away a goal or shoot out his legs to take away tap-in rebounds. Nalimov has robbed even the best of shooters in the KHL, as seen in the highlights below.
Nalimov is a battler in net, as he is very competitive. His competitiveness allows him to never quit on a play. His compete level combined with his reflexes has resulted in some marvelous saves over the years.
Overall, Nalimov has what it takes to be a good NHL goaltender. He undoubtedly has great size and his ability to move his body quickly with lightning-fast reflexes allows him to be very effective. Nalimov had his best season statistically of his pro career last season and is ready to take the next step.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Nalimov is an interesting case for the Hawks. The team brought him over briefly leading up to the 2016–17 season for a shot in training camp, but returned to Russia before the season began and has not returned since. As mentioned, he has expressed a desire to come to North America for a chance to play in the NHL. However, Stan Bowman has made it known the team does not feel it is the right timing yet. Nalimov asked for a trade earlier in the summer, as reported by Scott Powers of The Athletic, but Bowman does not appear to have much interest in that, at least at this time. Nalimov could potentially be an NHL option for the Blackhawks down the road, but it does not appear as though that will take place any time soon. It is difficult to predict what his future will be for Chicago, as there is a log jam of goaltenders already under contract in the system.
Nalimov is ready for pro action in North America. He has spent the last four seasons in the KHL, so he already has a lot of high-level hockey under his belt. Nalimov wants to come over to North America, but if he is going to do that, the Blackhawks will need to trade his rights to another team. If Nalimov is not moved and stays in Russia for 2018–19, he could try to come over again for 2019–20.
Nalimov has proven he can be a solid goaltender in high levels of hockey. Whether or not he could become an NHL starter remains to be seen, but, if given an opportunity, Nalimov should be able to establish himself as an NHL goaltender.
What others are saying
“Nalimov is firmly back on the radar for the Blackhawks after a breakout 2017-18 season where he posted a dominant .938 save percentage in 23 KHL games. He can’t come over to North America for at least another year given he’s under contract in Russia but there’s a good chance the Hawks try to sign him in 2019 to see whether he can make it in the NHL. There’s always been a lot to like about Nalimov in terms of tools, including a 6-4, 209-pound frame, but this was the first season where he really put it together for an extended stretch.”
— Satchel Price/Chicago Sun Times
“There’s a lot we like about him. He’s a big goaltender. He’s very athletic. We think he really wants to come to North America. … We love the upside, and with goaltenders, it’s a lot with maturity, where they are.”
— Mark Kelley/Chicago Blackhawks VP of Amateur Scouting
For those interested in his technique, here is a look at Nalimov during warmups.
And a freebie: Nalimov making a huge save in a preseason game with the Blackhawks.