Friday, September 14, 2012

Semyon Varlamov Autographed Card

It hasn't been an easy road to NHL stardom for Semyon Varlamov, but he's on his merry way.

His Juniors career went well, winning two silver medals at the World Juniors, and getting drafted in the first round (23rd overall) by the Washington Capitals in 2006. For the second of his two medals, he shared the net with fellow NHL netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. In Russia, his team was Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, for whom a week ago today marked the first anniversary of last year's airline crash tragedy.

His first few years in the Capitals' system were spent fighting other goalies for ice time, notably José Theodore, but when he was not re-signed, Michal Neuvirth became the de facto #1, making Varlamov expendable. In a genius move, Caps' GM George McPhee traded his rights to the Colorado Avalanche last summer for more than what he would have received as compensation had the Avs signed Varlamov to the same contract as an RFA (a first and a second pick).

In Colorado, Varlamov started the season as the team's starting goalie, but when the team's playoff hopes were dwindling, they turned to Jean-Sébastien Giguère to steer the ship, until an injury forced coach Joe Sacco to revert back to Varlamov, who ended the season on a high note, going 26-24-3 in 53 games, but more importantly, keeping a 2.59 GAA and .913 save percentage, both close to his career totals (2.48 and .915 respectively). I expect an All-Star performance on his part this year, and a place on Russia's 2014 Olympic team. He has a World Championship gold (2012) and silver (2010) to go with his Junior hardware, so he's pretty much a shoe-in already anyway.

Accordingly, this card from In The Game's 2007-08 Between the Pipes set (card #48, Future Stars sub-set) sees him wearing the beautiful Team Russia colours. He signed it for me in person, in black sharpie, during the 2009-10 playoffs, when my hometown Montréal Canadiens beat his Caps in the fifth-biggest upset in NHL history (comparing regular-season points between teams), and which marked the first time ever the eighth seed beat the first seed when down 3-1 in a series.

You'll notice the card spells his name ''Semen'' , but I titled the post ''Semyon''; it's because he registered an official spelling change with the NHL in August 2009, requesting all further appearances of his name be ''Semyon''. According to Wikipedia:
In the Russian alphabet, Varlamov's first name is spelled "Семён." The Russian letter (ё), equates to the sound (yo) in English.

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