Edmonton Oilers pick Dmitri Samorukov rated second best NHL prospect at Memorial Cup

This in from Sam Cosentino, amateur draft expert for Sportsnet, his ranking of Oilers pick Dmitri Samorukov as the second best NHL prospect at the Memorial Cup: “While Edmonton Oilers pundits are quick to point out the play of Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and Evan Bouchard, don’t sleep on Samorukov making a push to leap-frog all three players as early as next year. The affable Russian plays a pro-style game where he defends with size, physicality and a good stick. He passes the puck like an NHL veteran and has a bomb of a shot that will work in the NHL. An all-around defenceman, Samorukov’s 28 (playoff) points are the most for an OHL defenceman since Ryan Ellis had 33 with Windsor in 2010.”

My take

  1. This is high praise indeed from Cosentino. He’s ranked Samorukov, taken 84th overall in the 2017 draft by Keith Gretzky and Co, just ahead of such player as Nick Suzuki, taken 13th overall in 2017, Isaac Ratliffe, taken 35th overall in 2017, Sean Durzi, taken 52nd overall in 2018. Essentially, in a redraft of the 2017 draft, it’s likely that Samorukov would now be a first round pick. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s a surefire NHLer, but it’s mighty encouraging news.
  2. The turning point of Samorukov’s season came down to opportunity. On Dec. 15, his Guelph team traded away San Jose first round draft pick Ryan Merkley, the quarterback of the team’s power play, who had had 39 points in 28 games. Suddenly Samorukov was thrust into a lead role on the power play.
  3. Samorukov got 13 power play points in 2018-19 in the regular season, compared to 11 in 2017-18, but he really took off in the 2019 playoffs, with 16 power play points in 24 games.
  4. Overall, after he came back from a strong World Junior tournament for Team Russia in January, Samorukov has put up 56 points in 53 games, with 28 of those points coming in 24 playoffs games.
  5. Sean Patrick Ryan, a Cult of Hockey contributor to our prospects series, gave a detailed Samorukov’s strengths and weaknesses in mid-March — before Samorukov’s outstanding play in the OHOL playoffs — at his excellent Oil Knight blog. Here are some of his comments: “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… 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…. Samorukov also has a cannon for a shot. He gets plenty of torque on it and he can unleash it from any angle…. Samorukov is a very effective puck mover and passer… His vision is excellent & his head is usually up… Samorukov can be a real physical presence when he wants to. He’s had some devastating open ice hits …He can be real tough to play against when he wants to be…. 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….  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.”
  6. I put a lot of weight in Ryan’s take, which is both encouraging and sobering, because it’s based on several years of watching this player and it comes before Samorukov’s hot streak, so it’s not clouded by recency bias. It’s evident the Oilers have a hot prospect with a bullet in Samorukov, but it’s also evident Samorukov has a distance to go before he’s NHL-ready. That said, it’s hard not to be excited about the Oil’s defence of the early 2020s with players like Bouchard, Jones and Samorukov in the system.