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Often less is more.
It’s certainly adding up to more with what we’re seeing from Edmonton Oilers prospect Dmitri Samorukov this year.
Samorukov, 21, has played 20 video games for CSKA in Moscow in September and October, working his way as much as being on a leading protective pairing with 29- year-old Klas Dahlbeck, a stay-at-home d-man who played a couple of season in the NHL.
The two stalwarts get the most shifts per game of any CSKA d-men. Samorukov leads the team at 14 objectives even strength.
I have actually seen Samorukov play 15 or so AHL and major junior games, however wanted to get a sense of how he’s been able to make a lot trust from his coach in the KHL, a substantial achievement for the 21- year-old who got just third pairing minutes last season in Bakersfield. Yet here he remains in the mighty K– perhaps a much better league than the AHL and likewise a league that tends to favour veterinarians over rooks– eating up the major minutes on one of the league’s best teams.
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What I saw was a more patient, fully grown and efficient Samorukov, a much different gamer than he ‘d been when I first began to see his video games in his last year of significant junior, 2018-19
His game had a lot of dazzle and razzle at that point.
In the final months his major junior career, had actually had actually changed into arguably the most vibrant defenceman in Canadian significant junior hockey.
In no small part due to the strength of his play, his Guelph Storm squad made the 2019 Memorial Cup finals. He put up 28 points in 24 championship game that year, and was named second star in Guelph’s last video game, a 6-4 semi-final loss.
However even then, even when his video game had plenty of glitter and gold, there were enigmas about him as a pro prospect. He made the second star honours with some strong skating, shooting and passing, along with a couple of nasty open ice hits. At the same time, he got beat out of the corner by huge Boston prospect Jakub Lauko on opposition Rouyn-Noranda’s crucial 5th goal in the third period. It wasn’t Samorukov’s only protective error in his four Memorial Cup games. He got beat in his own zone enough times that it was then evident he was going to need a season or more at the American Hockey League level.
A couple of months later on in August 2019, major junior talent sleuth Sean Patrick Ryan of The Oil Knight blog site noted Samurkov’s strengths: “Outstanding mobility, good top-end speed, stronger skater forward than backward … Head typically up, provides a strong but easy to handle puck tape to tape … Very efficient in delivering an open ice hit. Booming shot from the point that utilized to be irregular but has actually enhanced substantially.” And his weakenesses: “Contend level was irregular for the majority of career in junior … Plays a high-risk style game. Over skates the play frequently. Attempts to get adorable and walk around men in the neutral zone, turns it over. Guilty of not getting the puck out efficiently when pressured. Panics and tosses too many pucks up the middle in the protective zone, or not tough enough along the glass. Death has gotten much better not nearly as numerous turnovers there now.”
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Ryan continued to watch tape of Samorukov in 2015 in Bakersfield, where he was struggled to get playing time.
In Ryan’s summary of Samorukov’s season, he composed: “If you have actually never ever enjoyed him play, Dmitri Samorukov’s video game can be properly referred to as … eventful. That implies there is a great deal of favorable and negative in his style of play … In Guelph, he was understood for his huge one-timer that often rattled the glass behind the net. He has a cannon of a shot but precision was a real issue. In Bakersfield, he appeared to depend on low difficult wristers more often than not. That led much better scoring opportunities, either thru deflections, rebounds or screens … Betting the Condors, Samorukov didn’t play a lot of minutes and when he did, it was on the 3rd pairing most nights … He revealed progression throughout the season. His consistency in terms of effort was probably the most enjoyable surprise. Defensively, Samorukov is still quite a work in progress. He’s still not terrific at puck retrievals but did a much better job at gap control, restricting time and area for challengers. The physical part of his game is struck and miss … Choice making is most likely going to be Samorukov’s Achille’s heel and eventually identify how good he can be as a possibility. There’s still a little ‘turmoil’ to his video game in that he takes some unnecessary opportunities sometimes. He has flashes of brilliance one shift, then shows some genuine head scratching decision making the next. He seems to believe he can be a real offensive danger, however could be much better served to focus on the protective side of his game if he’s going to have a long profession as a pro.”
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From all these reports, we’re getting a sense of a gamer with real promise and skill, however one discovering just how far that skill will break increasingly better gamers. It deserves keeping in mind that players like Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear likewise struggled in their very first AHL seasons, so it was no significant concern for Samorukov to do so.
Hockey Night in Moscow
Quick forward to this past week in Russia, where Samorukov continues his journey.
Just what did I see from Samorukov in the 3 games I seen?
- I strongly doubt he checks out the Cult of Hockey, however he appeared to be following Ryan’s suggestions of softening his desire to attack and instead to focus on defence. Like every d-man, he loses fights, but I rarely saw him out of position. I hardly ever saw him making an undecided choice that cost his group a harmful possibility versus. He was playing cool and calm.
- His most common play on the ice was to track back for the puck, control it, then pivot quickly to deal with Dahlbeck and whip over a pass right on his partner’s stick. That sort of easy pass now specifies Samorukov’s game. I’m thinking it might be his mantra: make the basic pass, make the easy pass, make the basic pass. Frequently for a d-man, that quick simple pass to the closest open male, at least if it’s provided right on his colleague’s stick, is the single best play he can make.
- Dahlbeck shoot left, as does Samorukov, but it’s the more youthful and more mobile d-man who plays on his off-side on the right. This puts Samorukov at something of a disadvantage moving the puck out of his own-zone, a minimum of when he’s pinned on his backhand on the boards. Call it the Russell Result, as we’ve seen Kris Russell so often in this spot battle to make an excellent pass out of his zone on the backhand. Samorukov deals with the Russell Effect by keeping his feet moving, but I tend to think he ‘d be better off his left side. That stated, he’s strong pinching down the boards on his backhand in the o-zone. He’s able to make hard, physical and effective stops in that area.
- At 6-3, he is among the tallest gamers on his group, but at 197- pounds he was on the lighter ones. He doesn’t look huge on the ice. And he’s not playing a nasty physical video game, either, however striking isn’t the norm in the KHL. He is playing sound protective hockey, specifically in puck battles, where he’s got a great stick and frequently comes out with the puck.
- His coach trust him in the eleventh hour of video games and in OT. Even though he made one of his few significant mental errors in the last minute on one game, getting captured up ice to enable a two-on-one in a tied contest, his coach still had enough faith to go back to him in overtime. Because area, he won the puck in the d-zone, made a sharp relocate to shake a forechecker, and started the rush that eventually caused the winning goal.
- Samorukov is getting both PK and PP time. He appears OK in both roles, but nothing too spectacular.
- I don’t see anything special in his offensive game. I’m not exactly sure there ever will be at the NHL level. However that’s OK. He’s a speedy skater and got good size. He keeps his head up and he’s great with the puck. He’s got the makings of an NHL d-man. Whether he’s a third-pairing d-man or possibly works his way as much as the second-pairing, I can’t say. His consistency and his checks out are coming along. When he gets back to The United States and Canada, he’s going to be in the running for heavy minutes in the AHL. If he excels there, he’ll be an Oiler, and maybe earlier than later.