With the 185th overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected goaltender Vyacheslav Peksa of Irbis Kazan in the Russian junior league.

The 6’2, 165-pound netminder was one of the youngest prospects eligible for the 2020 draft but was passed over in last October’s 216 selections. This past season, he appeared in 17 games for Irbis Kazan of the MHL, recording an 8-5-2 record and a .909 save percentage. The Magnitogorsk native was unranked by the public draft-ranking services.

The Maple Leafs have now drafted second-year-eligible goaltenders in two consecutive drafts from the Bars Kazan system. Last year, in the fourth round, the team selected Artur Akhtyamov, who started in front of Peksa for Irbis Kazan this past season.

There is obviously some familiarity that’s been established with this prospect as a result, a comfort with the Kazan development system, and a belief that the two would come to North America if the desire is there on the Leafs‘ behalf in a few years time. Akhtyamov is a client of Goldstar CEO Dan Milstein, who the Leafs have maintained a strong working relationship with dating back several years (Yegor Korshkov, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Ilya Mikheyev, Alexander Barabanov, Rodion Amirov).

In making this selection, the Leafs are no doubt leaning on the evaluations of Director of European Scouting Ari Vuori, Director of Player Evaluation Jim Paliafito, Russia-area scouts Grigori Shafigulin and Olegs Koreskovs, as well as goalie consultant Jon Elkin.

The Leafs have now drafted a goalie in five of the last six drafts: Peksa, Akhtyamov, Zachary Bouthillier, Ian Scott, and Joseph Woll. This proceeds a run of drafting just three in their previous nine entry drafts.

Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Vyacheslav Peksa

6’2-6’3 and played in the MHL in Kazan. He sported over a .900 save percentage with 2.5 goals against. He is somebody that we think we can put in our pipeline and develop over time.

It factored in that we were watching a prospect of ours [in Akhtyamov]. Jon Elkin, who is tasked with watching the goalies, really studied this man and went to bat for him at the end of the day. As a staff, we watched him.

It’s like anything. You delegate to your staff. Jon is a goalie guy and really thinks this kid is athletic with a bright future with a lot of upside. It’s a little bit of an unknown, but with the resources we had in place with the video, Jon was very confident and I was very confident in the pick.

Vyacheslav Peksa Statistics

2017-18 Dynamo Kazan U16Russia U1640--
2018-19 Dynamo Kazan U18Russia U18302.00-
2019-20 Ak Bars Kazan U18Russia U1811.00-
2020-21 Irbis KazanMHL172.570.90918-5-2