This is a big season for Dmitri Samorukov.
Selected in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Samorukov generated a lot of hype as a prospect with a huge performance in his final OHL season, but his development has been slowed down a little bit since then thanks to two different shoulder injuries and a broken jaw.
Samorukov is a big, physical defender who isn’t afraid to play with an edge. With Duncan Keith opting to retire and Zack Kassian getting shipped out as a salary cap dump, the Oilers lost some sandpaper over the summer and Samorukov could be looked upon to bring that element to the team’s lineup.
Another thing to consider is that Samorukov is waiver-eligible this season, so he’ll come into training camp towards the front of the line among Bakersfield’s defenders when it comes to a role with the big league club. But with the Oilers in win-now mode, nothing is guaranteed, and Samorukov will have to contribute in order to earn and keep a role on the team.
Date of Birth: June 16, 1999
Drafted: 2020, No. 126 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’3″ / 191 cm
Weight: 187 lbs / 85 kg
The Guelph Storm selected Samorukov with the No. 2 overall pick in the OHL Import Draft in 2016 and he was an important player on their team for three seasons. The highlight of Samorukov’s Major Junior career came in 2018-19 when he scored 45 points over 59 regular-season games and then exploded with 28 points in 24 games as the Storm won the OHL Championship.
Samourkov turned pro the following season and played fine for the Condors in a depth role, scoring 10 points with a minus-five rating over 47 AHL games. The following season, the Oilers loaned Samourkov to CSKA Moscow so that he could play in the KHL while hockey was paused in North America due to the pandemic. Samorukov’s KHL season was excellent, as he posted a plus-24 rating in 48 games playing in a defensive role. Unfortunately, his season came to an end early due to a shoulder injury.
Injuries were again an issue for Samorukov in 2021-22. He came into Oilers training camp in the fall with the objective of competing for a role on the team but broke his jaw in Edmonton’s first pre-season game and wound up missing six weeks of play. He finally made his 2021-22 AHL debut in late October and took some time to get up to speed.
In late December, the Oilers were struggling through an array of injuries and positive COVID-19 results and badly needed a defender. They called up Samorukov and his NHL debut was a disaster, as he was on the ice for two goals against over 2:28 of play. Dave Tippett benched him for the rest of the game and he was sent back down to Bakersfield immediately after.
Samorukov’s results in the AHL started to improve after that unfortunate cup of coffee at the NHL level. From the start of January onwards, he scored 15 points over 36 games and had a plus-22 rating.
Interestingly enough, as Lowetide pointed out
, Samorukov saw his results improve when Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson joined the Oilers and Colin Chaulk took over the Condors. In 24 games in the Chaulk era, he scored 11 points and put up a 29-to-13 goal differential at even strength playing largely on the team’s top defensive pairing. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury again ended Samorukov’s season early, though the shoulder he injured in 2021-22 wasn’t the same shoulder that he injured in 2020-21 while playing in the KHL.
Samorukov will come to Oilers camp this fall with his eyes on a roster spot. Given the fact he’s waiver-eligible, the Oilers will likely prioritize keeping him up with the NHL club, but nothing is guaranteed.
The hope for Samorukov this season is that he can stay healthy and seize the opportunity and become the big, intimidating, heavy-hitting defensive defenceman that the team needs. If not, names like Markus Niemelainen and Vincent Desharnais will be knocking on the door to get that chance.
For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are those who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and are 23 years old or younger at the start of the 2022-23 season.
Previously in this series…