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Evgeni Viktorovich Nabokov ( ; born July 25, 1975) is a Russian and Kazakhstanian professional ice hockey goaltender currently playing for the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Nabokov was selected by San Jose in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft (9th round, 219th overall). When he started playing in North America, he went by John, rather than Evgeni, fearing that English speakers would have a hard time pronouncing his name. However, this change did not last.

Over nine seasons in the NHL, all with San Jose, Nabokov has become the Sharks leader in nearly every goaltending category, including games played, wins, and shutouts.

Playing career

Russia and minor league

San Jose Heads Scout Tim Burke saw Nabokov on an advertisement during his trip to Russia while Burke went to scout another player. Taken late in the ninth round, the Sharks had never seen him play; rather, they were more interested in the skill of Nabokov's father, a professional goaltender who played 18 years in Kazakhstan.

San Jose Sharks

After a few years in the American Hockey League (AHL), Nabokov played his first NHL game on January 1, 2000, stopping his first four shots, all breakaways, when he replaced Steve Shields in a game against the Nashville Predators.

On January 19, 2000, Nabokov started in his first NHL game, playing against the Colorado Avalanche and famed goalie Patrick Roy. Impressively, Nabokov stopped all 39 shots he faced in a 0-0 tie. In his first four appearances, Nabokov stopped all but one of his first 104 shots, and the one goal he allowed was when Stéphane Matteau put the puck into an empty net while Nabokov was skating to the bench on a delayed penalty.

In the second game of the 2000–01 NHL season, Shields hurt his ankle, leaving San Jose without a number one goalie. Instead of giving the job to the very well known Miikka Kiprusoff, whom the Sharks brass considered the "goalie of the future," they left Kiprusoff in the AHL so he could get more experience, and gave the starting position to Nabokov, and he ran away with it, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the Rookie of the Year. Also, he played in the 2001 All-star game and took San Jose to the playoffs.

On March 10, 2002, he became the first netminder in NHL history to score a powerplay goal, doing so against the Vancouver Canucks. He is also the first European goaltender to score a goal.

Nabokov is considered one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and is often ranked as one of the top ten, if not top five goaltenders in the NHL by magazines like ESPN The Magazine and The Hockey News. However, the 2005–06 season was an off year for Nabokov. His save percentage of under .900 was a big concern to the team. More notably, he was relegated to the role of backup goaltender, in deference to a red-hot Vesa Toskala.

Nabokov is known for his excellent positioning and his ability to challenge shooters, but has been hampered by a groin injury. During the 2006–07 NHL season, Nabokov split the starting goaltending duties with Toskala. Through March 18, 2007, the Sharks had played 78 games, with Nabokov starting 45 [81298]. Nabokov played all 5 games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2007 NHL playoffs, helping the Sharks defeat the Nashville Predators in 5 games.

During the first half of the 2007–08 NHL season, Nabokov started the first 43 games for the San Jose Sharks, however on January 13, 2008 in Anaheim he received his first day off when Thomas Greiss started his first NHL game.

Nabokov was recognized as one of the 'Three Stars' for the NHL in the last week of December 2007, along with Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Jaromír Jágr of the New York Rangers. In addition to that honor, Nabokov was named the “Sharks Player of the Month” by Seagate Technology in December. Since the 1996–97 season, Seagate Technology has recognized Sharks players who made contributions to further the team’s accomplishments and makes a donation of $2,500 to The Sharks Foundation on the players’ behalf. Nabokov holds the franchise-record for having won this award nine times.

Nabokov played in his second NHL All-Star Game on January 27, 2008. He stopped all eight shots that came at him in the second period, making it the first time since 2002 that a goalie has played a period where no goals were scored. The last goaltender to do so was fellow Russian goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Nabokov secured the scoreless period when he blocked both of Ilya Kovalchuk’s shots in the last minute of the second period. On May 4, during game six of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2008 NHL Playoffs, Nabokov made what has been called one of the best glove saves in decades, when he robbed Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars of a goal by sliding over from the other side of the post and gloved the puck. The save was reviewed for several minutes before making it clear Nabokov saved it before it went over the goal line. The game, which ended in a Dallas victory, went to 4th overtime and is now the 8th longest game in NHL history.

Nabokov recorded 41 wins for the Sharks during the 2008-09 NHL Season as the Sharks clinched first overall in the Western Conference and the League. Despite this, the Sharks were eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs by the 8th seed Anaheim Ducks, marking just the fourth time that a number 8 seed defeated a number 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs.

On October 17, 2009 Nabokov played in his 500th career game -all with San Jose- and stopped 31 shots in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders.

Contracts

During the 2003 season, Nabokov held out, refusing to sign San Jose's proposed contract. After making only US$1 million for two years of stellar play, he wanted much more. He only missed five games before the Sharks met his demands, signing him to a two-year contract. When he finally signed a contract, he struggled to regain his form, as he had taken too long of a break. Later, he remarked that holding out was extremely unsportsmanlike, and that he would never do it again. He held to his word when he avoided arbitration by signing a two-year deal worth US $4.425 million per year in 2004, even when players comparable to him were getting more than US $6 million per year.

Despite his less-than-stellar play during the 2006 season, Nabokov was signed to a four-year contract extension worth roughly US$21.5 million. The contract has a no-trade clause that will be activated, since San Jose made the playoffs.

International career

While he is a Russianmarker citizen, he was previously denied permission by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to play for Russiamarker, because he had played for Kazakhstanmarker as a 19-year-old in the 1994 World Championships. In 2005, Nabokov was granted permission to play for Russia in the IIHF World Championships, but declined. Nabokov had tried to gain the IIHF's permission to play for Russia at the 2002 Winter Olympics, but failed as there were regulations in place forbidding players from representing two different countries. He was finally allowed to play for Russia in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, after being given an exemption by the IIHF, and was named to the Russian team for the 2008 World Championships . During the 2008 World Championships he posted back-to-back shut-outs before defeating Canada 5-4 in the Gold Medal game. Team Russia won the 2008 IIHF World Championships, earning Nabokov his first gold medal.

Played for Kazakhstan in:

Played for Russia in:

Awards and achievements



Career statistics

Regular season

   
Season Team League GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1997–98 Kentucky Thoroughblades AHL 33 10 21 2 1866 122 0 3.92 .872
1998–99 Kentucky Thoroughblades AHL 43 26 14 1 2429 106 5 2.62 .909
1999–00 Kentucky Thoroughblades AHL 2 1 1 0 120 3 1 1.50 .952
1999–00 Cleveland Lumberjacks IHL 20 12 4 3 1164 52 0 2.68 .920
1999–00 San Jose Sharks NHL 11 2 2 1 2645 15 1 2.17 .910
2000–01 San Jose Sharks NHL 66 32 21 7 3700 135 6 2.19 .915
2001–02 San Jose Sharks NHL 67 37 24 5 3901 149 7 2.29 .918
2002–03 San Jose Sharks NHL 55 19 28 8 3227 146 3 2.71 .906
2003–04 San Jose Sharks NHL 59 31 19 8 3455 127 9 2.21 .921
2004–05 Metallurg Magnitogorsk RSL 14 808 27 3 2.00
2005–06 San Jose Sharks NHL 44 16 19 7 2515 129 1 3.10 .885
2006–07 San Jose Sharks NHL 50 25 16 4 2777 106 7 2.29 .914
2007–08 San Jose Sharks NHL 77 46 21 8 4560 163 6 2.14 .910
2008–09 San Jose Sharks NHL 62 41 12 8 3686 150 7 2.44 .910
NHL totals 491 249 150 48 24610 974 47 2.37 .911
AHL totals 78 37 36 3 4415 231 6 2.68


International statistics

Season Team Event   GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA
1994 Kazakhstan WC 3 -- -- -- -- -- -- 2.57
2006 Russia Oly 7 5 2 0 359 8 3 1.34
2008 Russia WC 5 5 0 0 302 9 2 1.78
Senior Int'l totals 7 5 2 0 359 8 3 1.34


References

  1. San Jose Sharks transactions 1997-2003
  2. 2007-08 San Jose Sharks Organization Guide, pgs. 151-53
  3. sharks.nhl.com (December 31, 2007). Nabokov, Ovechkin and Jagr Named NHL 'Three Stars' of the Week. Retrieved on January 27, 2008.
  4. sharks.nhl.com (January 4, 2008). Nabokov Named Seagate Player Of The Month. Retrieved on January 27, 2008.
  5. John Kreiser (January 27, 2008). Nabokov just perfect in All-Star outing. Retrieved on January 27, 2008.


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