A Franco-Albertan against Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon

The 24-year-old goalkeeper’s journey has been strewn with pitfalls, but that never stopped him from having a goal in mind.

Even though he was passed over in the 2016 NHL Draft, even though he had to play two seasons on the Canadian college circuit and even though he barely played in his first two professional seasons, he has achieved its goal.

In total, the Sharks have sent him on the ice in seven games. He had a record of one win, two losses and one overtime loss, with a 3.35 GAA and .901 save percentage.

 » The thing I’m most proud of is that I was able to prove to everyone who didn’t trust me that I could do it. »

A quote from Zachary Sawchenko, goaltender, San Jose Sharks

Last season, the Calgary native signed an NHL contract with the Sharks, but that was simply to send him to the California squad’s practice squad.

A first presence

At the end of December, COVID-19 affected a few goalkeepers from the Sharks organization and it was the Franco-Albertan who was called in to assist James Reimer, the team’s number one goalkeeper.

Zachary Sawchenko did not expect to walk the rink.

I think I was having one of my worst moments in the American League. We had played badly since the start of the season and I was disappointed with my performance.

On January 2, the Sharks play the Penguins in Pittsburgh. James Reimer allows six goals in the first period and the coach decides to send his rookie into the fray.

Zachary Sawchenko of the Sharks makes a save during a game against the Penguins on Jan. 2 in Pittsburgh.

Goaltender Zachary Sawchenko played his first NHL game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Photo: Associated Press/Gene J. Puskar

This is not how the young goalkeeper had imagined his first match in the NHLbut looking back on it, he believes it might have been the best thing that could have happened to him.

It took a lot of pressure off because we were losing 6-1 and there weren’t really any expectations of me. It was up to me to take the opportunity and I had fun.

Against all odds, thanks to the brilliance of their goalkeeper, the Sharks recovered, scoring 4 goals for a score of 6-5. The University of Alberta Golden Bears alum blocks the first 20 shots against him before allowing the 21st to passe 2:01 from the end of the third period. The Penguins added an empty-net goal for an 8-5 victory.

Despite the loss and even though he only played two periods, Zachary was named third star of the game.

Sidney Crosby and his Penguins teammates knew this was his first appearance in the NHLbut did not congratulate him on his performance.

I think they were a little frustrated that a guy who had a bad season in the American League could be responsible for a comeback in a game in the NHL.

After Crosby, McDavid

Zachary Sawchenko’s second outing came against the Edmonton Oilers and lasted just two minutes and eleven seconds.

James Reimer had equipment problems and the Franco-Albertan replaced him for the end of the first period.

It was one of Jay Woodcroft’s first games behind the Oilers bench and when he saw me enter the game, he sent McDavid on the play with Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins then on defense Nurse and Bouchard.

The Oilers only had two shots, which were blocked by Zachary Sawchenko.

Zachary Sawchenko makes a save in front of Chandler Stephenson of the Golden Knights.

Zachary Sawchenko was called up after James Reimer was injured in a game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Photo: Getty Images / Ethan Miller

1er March, his team faces the Golden Knights in Vegas. In the first period, James Reimer was injured and was unable to return to play.

Like in Pittsburgh, the rookie goaltender spends two periods in net. A good outing, despite the loss: he stopped 18 of 20 shots from Golden Knights in a 3-1 loss.

Arrival of Alex Stalock

James Reimer’s injury is serious and his usual replacement, Adin Hill, is also injured. Suddenly, Zachary becomes the number one goaltender for the Sharks.

With four days between the game in Vegas and the next in Nashville, San Jose acquires Alex Stalock: an experienced goaltender who has played only five games in two seasons, all in the American League.

For weeks, Sharks fans have been calling for Zachary Sawchenko to leave, but it’s Alex Stalock instead that coach Bob Boughner sends to the ice against the Predators.

The 34-year-old goalkeeper allowed 6 goals on 28 shots before being replaced by Zachary Sawchenko in the 46the minute of play. While his team trailed 6-0 in the third period, the Alberta goaltender allowed 2 goals on 8 shots.

A first start, then a first victory

The Sharks were playing the next day in Anaheim, the head coach then decided to entrust the net to his young goalkeeper.

I think he was like ‘OK, what do we have to lose by putting the youngster in goal.’ I was lucky because my girlfriend and my dad were there for the game.

Before the game, I was really really nervous. I tried to do my routine as usual, but it was impossible. I was trying to calm myself down, but I only succeeded once on the ice during the warm-up.

Zachary Sawchenko faces 36 pucks, he saves 33 in a 3-2 overtime loss.

Zachary Sawchenko shows off the puck from his first NHL win.

The puck from Zachary Sawchenko’s first win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Manuel Carrillos Avalos

A few days later, second start, this time against the Kings. Again he made 33 saves on 36 shots, but this time his team won the game 4-3.

 » I kept the game puck. It weighs six ounces (170 grams). There’s a lot of hours, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of work that goes into that six ounce, so it’s a puck I’m going to have for the rest of my life. »

A quote from Zachary Sawchenko, goaltender, San Jose Sharks

With the return to play of Adin Hill and then James Reimer, Zachary Sawchenko had only one other start, it was against the Colorado Avalanche. He suffered a backhand yielding four times on 28 shots.

Returned to the American League, he suffered a season-ending injury.

Today, he is a restricted free agent and does not know the intentions of the Sharks towards him. They can make him an offer, or decide to let him go, he could then agree with the team of his choice.

Zachary Sawchenko does not know what the future holds for him, but he hopes to have the chance to play in the NHL. His next deal will likely be a two-way deal, meaning he’ll play in the American League, with the possibility of being called up to the National League.

He knows he may not have the chance to play in the NHL again. If that were the case, he would certainly be disappointed, but would still be proud of what he has accomplished.

No matter what happens, if I never play in the NHL again, no one can take away what I’ve done. When I’m 40 or 50 I can go online and see my stats, nobody can change that.

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