By TheOilKnight 03/15
Dimitri Samorukov was drafted in the 3rd round in 2017 by the Edmonton Oilers. At the time, he was viewed as a “toolsy” prospect who flashed some elite qualities but really needed to work on his consistency. But, inconsistency is exactly how I would describe his draft year +1 and the first half of this season. There were many nights where he simply did not show enough or gave a good enough effort. Mental mistakes & a lack of work ethic were far too common. I know, because I attended a few of those games and noted it here and here. To be fair, there were other nights where he just brought it & looked like a Top prospect. But “Dima’ as he is referred to by many, was such a jekyll & hyde prospect that it was hard to foresee him having a solid career after Junior. A frustrating player to track from game to game without a doubt.
It is important to note, Dima was buried on the depth chart behind OHL phenom Ryan Merkley for the majority of his career, until midway thru this season when Merkley was traded. That meant, he saw little Powerplay time and rarely got Top pair duties. He was in charge of of the majority of tough defensive minutes playing with a young and inexperienced group. His numbers reflected that, as thru 23 games he had 0 goals & 6 assists. Merkley who was one of Guelph’s leaders, was also known as a lazy player who didn’t give nearly enough effort defensively and had a toxic attitude. I believe that affected not only the team but Dima’s game too as he showed a lot of the same tendencies as Merkley. However, once Merkley was traded, Samorukov began to get more responsibility and his game slowly started to come around. It wasn’t until the World Juniors in late December till he really broke out, showcasing all the skills and qualities that made him a 3rd rd pick to begin with. Since then, he has maintained consistency and his play has not dropped off at all. If anything, he’s gotten much, much better. 10 goals & 38 pts in 35 games since.
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Samorukov‘s mobility is a real strength. He is an excellent skater with good speed & has a bit of ‘shake and bake’ in his game. He really bends his legs and has an upright style which looks a little awkward but it works well for him. That mobility enables him to excel at zone exits by carrying the puck out, or jumping up and joining the attack which he loves to do. Being such a good skater also allows him to track down the puck carrier from behind, or beat opposing forecheckers to the puck. Speed & mobility translate well to any level, and Samorukov certainly has those.
Samorukov also has a cannon for a shot. He gets plenty of torque on it and he can unleash it from any angle. His one-timer from the point is also very strong though he still struggles with accuracy. I used to dub him the “glass rattler” as he would hammer pucks without even getting close to the net (I once counted 1 SOG on 12 attempts live). He has improved in that area considerably though recently. He appears to follow through with his shot more now which is encouraging. Dima hasn’t quarterbacked the PP much in Guelph throughout his career but appears to have that ability. Projecting to the next level however, he may not be more than a PP2 guy due to lack of experience and accuracy. Regardless, his shot is deadly and NHL caliber even if the accuracy isn’t.
Samorukov is a very effective puck mover and passer. He can make those highlight reel tape to tape stretch passes, or make a simple breakout pass for a quick zone exit. His vision is excellent & his head is usually up. He does get into trouble sometimes trying to “thread the needle” or make a few too many high risk passes, but overall I consider his puck moving ability a real strength which will bode well for his future as he turns pro.
Samorukov can be a real physical presence when he wants to. He’s had some devastating open ice hits that makes opposing players think twice the next time they enter the zone. In the d-zone, he has the ability to box out his man or pin his man up against the boards. In his draft year & the last half of this season, his physicality has really shown up more and it has made him a more effective defender. In between, it has been sporadic at best. It seems, he can’t decide if he wants to be a physical defender or a finesse defender. When he turns pro, if he can continue to bring that physicality forward then he could really establish an identity as a prospect. He can be real tough to play against when he wants to be.
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Here are some highlights from this season that showcase his strengths:
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Like any prospect, Samorukov also has areas he can improve on as he turns pro and continues to work on his game.
Here’s the thing. Fans who only watch highlights see all the good things Samorukov is capable of and just assume he is going to be a great prospect. The reality is, he’s had some serious consistency issues that can’t be ignored. He’s been downright awful many nights throughout his OHL career, making poor decisions and playing far too lackadaisical. Until the last 3 months, that has been his M.O. Good one night, bad the next. Hence the Good Dima vs. Bad Dima references. It is very encouraging he has maintained consistency for awhile now, but is still a concern as he moves on to minor pro next year. The first third of this season was virtually uneventful. The next third of the season he had better efforts but it was still sporadic. This last third of the season he has dominated. So what kind of player are the Oilers going to get moving forward?
Even through this hot streak Samorukov is having offensively, he still makes a few head scratching plays each game. Sometimes, he tries to walk through the whole team and the play goes the other way & it’s in his net. Or, he isn’t patient with the puck in his own zone and just gives it away right up the middle. That part of his game will probably always be there. But, if all the other parts of his game develop, you would hope good coaching could help keeps those plays to a minimum. He likes to make a lot of high risk plays on the ice.
This is the key for me if Samorukov is going to be a bonafide NHL‘er or not. As of now, he does not show enough defensive intensity or compete to be a solid pro. And his offence is probably not good enough to get him to the NHL. In order for him to be successful, he needs to bring his compete level up in his own zone and become a tougher player to play against on a nightly basis. That’s why I think a guy like Dave Manson, who coaches the defence in Bakersfield, could have a huge impact on a guy like Dima. There’s no question Samorukov has the ability to be a strong defender, who makes good reads, boxes out players & takes the body. But, he needs to be coached up & encouraged to do so. In his draft year, he was a physical force then it mysteriously disappeared from his game almost completely. He became a more “finesse” defender and lazy stick checker instead (like Merkley). Now, while he’s playing well again, he’s lighting guys up. Samorukov has the wheels to keep up with NHL‘ers but with better positioning, coaching & commitment to being a more defensive minded dman, he could really find his niche.
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There’s no doubt Samorukov has a tremendous skillset. He has great mobility and puck moving ability, which should bode well for him as he turns pro. He also has a big shot & good offensive instincts. The key to him, is to work on being much more consistent defensively, and to continue to incorporate physicality into his game. When he does that, he is a very effective player. When he tries to get cute, and relies on stick checking instead of taking out his man, or walking thru the whole team – he struggles. Dima needs to work on taking care of his own end first because if he is a liability in the d-zone, he won’t advance as a prospect. If he commits to defence, he’ll make it and the offence will be a bonus. The reality is, he has struggled for most of his OHL career with consistency, but has exploded since the World Juniors. Has he finally matured as a prospect or is he just on a hot streak as a 19 yr old playing against 17 & 18 yr olds? I’m still not sure either way because I have seen so much Good Dima and Bad Dima throughout his career in Guelph. But, there’s no denying the tools are there and he has a real chance to develop into a nice prospect for the Oilers down the road.
As far as NHL comps go, when Samorukov is playing up to his potential, he looks so much like Nikita Zadorov out there. Big, mobile, physical presence who has a cannon of a shot and loves to jump up and join the rush. Like Zadorov, he also has defensive lapses & makes mental errors from time to time. Consistency were issues for both of them in Junior but you can live with those if the other parts of his game progress. Zadorov can be a very difficult player to play against. I know because I watched and scouted him up close. Samorukov while not quite as big or physical, still has that potential. He just has to keep working on his defensive intensity. While he’s having some offensive success now as a 19 yr old, I still don’t see him as an big offensive producer in the NHL. He does have a chance to be a solid puck mover though. He looks like a NHL defenceman, but whether he becomes a solid 2nd pair dman or a bottom pair fringe type is up to him. The skill is there, the will is still very much up for debate.
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