For the third straight year, the Tampa Bay Lightning front office went way off board for a surprise pick from Russia. Last year, Alexander Volkov was taken in the second round. Very little was known about Volkov as he was off the radar for all of the public scouting services. He was a 20 year old playing in the Russian minor leagues and immediately signed and came to North America to play in the AHL for the Syracuse Crunch. He made an immediate impact there and grew throughout the season scoring 23 goals and 45 points in 75 games.
The draft before that, the Lightning took giant Russian defenseman Oleg Sosunov in the sixth round. Sosunov had very little offense playing a defensive role in the Russian junior leagues. He spent another year in Russia and came over to North America to play in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors. With Moose Jaw, Sosunov was given a more prominent role and showed more offense. He’ll be playing in the AHL next year with the Crunch.
This year’s surprise Russian was left-handed defenseman Dmitri Semykin in the third round, 90th overall. McKeen’s Hockey was the only scouting service with Semykin ranked and he came in at 215th. They did not have any scouting profile on him. HockeyProspects.com didn’t have him ranked, but had a scouting profile with him in their Draft Black Book.
HockeyProspects describes Semykin as a “powerful two-way defenseman.” Semykin played for Kapitan Stupino, the MHL team for HK Sochi. They were the worst team in the MHL with just six regulation wins and five overtime wins. Despite the struggles of the team, Semykin managed to be a plus-four and was the only player on the team with a positive plus-minus. He also had eight goals and seven assists for 15 points in 41 games and was third among defensemen on the team in points. Semykin is also a physical defenseman at 6’3” and 201 pounds. He also led the team in penalty minutes with 118.
While HockeyProspects and EliteProspects lists him as a right handed defenseman, I noticed in a YouTube video of one of his MHL games that he is actually a left hander. Pictures from his Instagram also confirm that he is a leftie.
While Kapitan was not a very good team this season, Semykin could be in for a big step up next season. In May, he was traded from HK Sochi (Kapitan’s parent KHL club) to powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg. SKA’s MHL team had the second most points in the MHL and lost in the finals of the playoffs. Without question, Semykin will be surrounded by a much more talented roster next season. They also have a couple of their top defensemen graduating to the professional ranks next season which could mean a prominent position in their defensive corps for Semykin.
I watched through some of the one game I found on YouTube (#13 in blue) and there were a few things that I noticed. When Semykin was on the ice, he was rarely in his own zone. He was effective in retrieving pucks and getting it out of the zone quickly and with sound passes. He also rushed the puck into the offensive zone on a couple occasions when the space was available to him. He played the center point on the power play. When the puck came to him, he either passed it off quickly to the half wall as their power play seemed to mostly want to operate down low, or he’d take a hard slap shot from the point and mostly got it on net. He threw a couple of big hits in the offensive zone to disrupt exits and on one such hit forced an icing as the forward carrying the puck had to get rid of it quickly before he was hit.
Going beyond Semykin, there is one thing I feel is worthwhile to discuss here. The public scouting services and different media people that follow prospects seem to have missed Semykin. I feel that many of them have some blind spots, especially when it comes to Russian prospects. Viewing these prospects is often difficult to accomplish and they are more likely to rely on word of mouth for prospects like Semykin. If NHL teams are in on a player that isn’t getting a lot of attention, it would make sense that they would be quiet about such a player and not talk to outsiders about them.
Just because Semykin was not noticed by these more public sources does not mean he was unnoticed by NHL scouting staffs. Obviously the Lightning found him, saw him probably more than once, and saw something in his game they liked. We’ll never know how other NHL front offices viewed him. With Volkov, we found out after the draft that he wasn’t an unknown for NHL front offices and the Lightning jumped on him in the second round because they believed other teams were also interested in him. The same could very well have happened with Semykin.
Time will tell on Semykin on how good of a prospect he is. The Lightning could look like geniuses for drafting him in a few years. Or they could look like fools if he doesn’t pan out. Thus is the life of draft picks and prospects. These 18 , 19, 20 year old kids are not finished products and have a lot of work to do to become NHLers. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing Semykin in North America in the next couple seasons and give us more of an idea of exactly what the Lightning have gotten with their third round pick.