I think it’s a fair comparison to say that Robert Esche is the American version of Sean Burke. Burke was always available to wear the Team Canada Jersey, representing his country in nine different tournaments and actually playing full-time for the national team for parts of four seasons. Esche has appeared in eight tournaments for Team USA and is still quite active in professional hockey. The two even played for the same NHL teams, at different times.
Robert Esche played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League from 1995-96 to 1997-98. His first two seasons were with the Detroit Junior Red Wings and he switched with the franchise in his final season as they became the Plymouth Whalers. In his final season, he was selected Second Team All-Star goaltender. Twice during his junior career, Robert tended goal for Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Esche was selected in the sixth round of the 1996 NHL Entry draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, 139th overall. He played three games with the Coyotes the first season while spending most of his time with their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. In that first season, Esche was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team.
Robert played parts of eight seasons in the NHL with the Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers. At his pinnacle, 2003-04 with the Flyers, he was named the winner of the Jennings Trophy with a 2.04 GAA and .915 save percentage over 40 regular season games. He led the Flyers deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs before losing in the Eastern Conference finals to eventual Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In 2007-08, Esche made a drastic change of scenery, jumping to Russia’s KHL (then called the RSL). He was an instant star between the pipes in Russia, posting a 1.86 GAA with AK Bars Kazan in his first season then a 1.87 with nine shutouts in 38 games for SKA St. Petersburg the following season. He also played in the All-Star game that season. Esche played last season with St. Petersburg and once again posted stellar numbers.
This season, Esche has signed on with Dynamo Minsk and is helping the team stay on top of the KHL’s Western Conference.
Check out Robert Esche’s profile at the KHL official website.
Joining Esche on Dynamo Minsk are these two former Ontario Hockey League players (click names to go to previous post at OHL Alumni Central):