Photo Credit: Nick Barden

ON’s Top Prospects Countdown – No. 5: Dmitri Samorukov

There’s no doubt that the strength of the Oilers’ farm system is on the blueline.

Even after graduating Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones to the NHL ranks last season, Edmonton boasts two exciting defence prospects in Philip Broberg and Evan Bouchard who fans dream about becoming the team’s top-pairing one day.

Bouchard looks to be an offensive dynamo, a guy who can move the puck up the ice with ease and can quarterback a good power-play while Broberg has all the tools of a great two-way defender, one with elite skating and the smarts to make the game look easy.

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Somewhat hidden in their shadow is Dmitri Samorukov, a defender who doesn’t play a sexy game but checks the boxes of a much-needed player on a Western Conference blueline. The Oilers once paid a very high price to acquire a defenceman who plays a tough, physical, demanding game, so internally developing a guy who can carry the torch would be ideal.

Dmitri Samorukov

Position: Defence
Shoots: Left
Nationality: Russia
Date of Birth: June 16, 1998
Drafted: 2017, No. 84 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’2″ / 189 cm
Weight: 189 lbs / 90 kg

Samorukov was selected second overall in the 2016 CHL Import Draft and joined a difficult situation on a rebuilding Guelph Storm club. At a glance, his pre-draft season was unimpressive, as Samorukov posted 20 points in a minus-24 rating. The Oilers ended up grabbing him in the third round of the 2017 draft, buying into a prospect with some impressive physical tools.

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In 2017-18, both Guelph and Samorukov improved. The big Russian defender improved to 34 points and a minus-10 rating and the Storm qualified for the playoffs. It was the following season that both Samorukov and the Storm put it all together.

Samorukov was Guelph’s top defender who played in all situations in 2018-19. He could drive offence, as seen with his 45 points, but he also played against the other team’s top competition in a shutdown role. Samorukov’s best came in the playoffs when he produced 24 points in 22 games, helping the Storm win the OHL championship and reach the Memorial Cup.

That great season, playoff run, and a strong showing for Russia at the World Juniors (four points and a plus-nine rating in seven games) really put Samorukov on the map as a prospect.

When he was drafted in 2017, the prevailing theme was that Samorukov likely projected as a physical bottom-pairing defenceman who was difficult to play against. Based on his showing in 2018-19, though, there’s certainly reason to believe that Samorukov can be even more than that.

In 2019-20, Samorukov was again thrown into a difficult situation in a new league. The defender turned pro and joined the Bakersfield Condors and the expectation was that he would play sheltered, bottom-pairing minutes to ease into the league.

Unfortunately for Samorukov, life in the AHL isn’t that simple. Due to injuries on the big-league club, Bakersfield’s top two left-handed defencemen, Caleb Jones and William Lagesson, spent a good chunk of time in Edmonton. Jones played just 14 games for the Condors and Lagesson played only 25.

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Samorukov ended up playing higher on the depth chart and taking on a more difficult role than expected. He would put up 10 points and a minus-five rating over the course of 47 games. Not bad, all things considered. For comparison, Ethan Bear was a minus-eight in his rookie season in the AHL, and Jones was a minus-24.

This season, Samorukov is quietly putting up a very good season for CSKA Moscow in the KHL. He’s playing second-pairing minutes and has eight points through 33 games. The offensive production isn’t great, but Samorukov’s plus-21 rating is the highest of any skater on the team. That’s a testament to how difficult it is to score a goal when Samorukov is on the ice defending.

Circling back to what I said earlier, the player that Samorukov could ideally grab the torch from is Adam Larsson. Despite the fact he doesn’t play a sexy game, Larsson is a valuable player for any team’s blueline.

He’s a physical rock, he’s difficult to go up against in the defensive zone, and he isn’t afraid to lay punishing hits. Samorukov is showing right now in the KHL that he can be a minute-munching defenceman who plays that difficult, imposing, pushing style.

If he could translate that to the NHL, that would be a huge win for the Oilers, especially considering Larsson’s contract is set to expire at the end of 2021 and none of Edmonton’s other high-quality young defencemen (Bouchard, Broberg, Bear, Jones) are that type of player. Samorukov might not get the same hype as these other names, but he could be a huge part of the team’s blueline sooner than later.

For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are skaters who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and goaltenders who have played fewer than 25 NHL games. I’m basing the rankings on a combination of upside and the likelihood of reaching that potential. 

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No. 15 – Stuart Skinner

No. 14 – Filip Berglund

No. 13 – Cooper Marody

No. 12 – Carter Savoie

No. 11 – Tyler Tullio

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No. 10 – Olivier Rodrigue

No. 9 – Ryan McLeod

No. 8 – Tyler Benson

No. 7 – William Lagesson

No. 6 – Ilya Konovalov

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