This afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the signing of 2018 third round draft pick Dmitry Semykin to a three year entry level contract.
Semykin is a left handed defenseman listed at 6’2” and 214 pounds. He was playing for Kapitan Stupino in the MHL, the Russian junior league, when the Lightning drafted him in 2018. Kapitan Stupino and it’s parent club HK Sochi are far from being power houses in Russian hockey with HK Sochi being created in 2014 to take advantage of the facilities constructed for the Winter Olympics. Semykin was traded to SKA St. Petersburg, one of the premier organizations in Russian hockey, less than two months before the NHL draft.
When Semykin was drafted, it was a pick that was off the radar. The public scouting sources available didn’t have much on Semykin. This goes to one of the issues that public scouting often has in not having enough resources to canvas leagues as thoroughly as an NHL organization. However, I was able to find a game of his with Kapitan on YouTube which gave a little insight at the time to what kind of player he was. Here is what I said about his play at the time.
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.
2017-18 was Semykin’s first season playing in the MHL. In 41 games, he recorded eight goals and seven assists for 15 points. He also showed a bit of a tough streak in his game amassing 118 penalty minutes. With Kapitan, Semykin was a mainstay on the first defensive pair and the power play. It was not a very deep or talented team. Semykin had the 2nd highest point total among defensemen. However, he was only one point behind the leader, who played 22 games more than Semykin. Semykin was also the only player on the team to finish with a positive plus-minus while Kapitan finished last in the MHL with a 6-49-5-4 record. Yikes.
The trade to SKA St. Petersburg was big for Semykin though. He began the 2018-19 season with SKA-1946 in the MHL on the third pairing. Shortly afterward, he spent some time with SKA’s B-Team, SKA-Varyagi where he got more top pairing and power play minutes, but only played six games before heading back to SKA-1946. He finished with five goals and 16 points in 38 games for SKA-1946 and a goal and three points in six games for SKA-Varyagi. He also found his way to playing for SKA-Neva in the VHL, the Russian minor professional league where he recorded a point in 10 games and played in four playoff games getting a taste of professional hockey.
Semykin spent the majority of the 2019-20 season playing for SKA-1946 in the MHL where he posted nine goals and 24 points in 44 games. He also played three games in the VHL for SKA-Neva without a point. This past season, Semykin cut down on his penalties with just 41 PIMs. He also finished with a plus-25 plus-minus rating. In two playoff games for SKA-1946, he scored a goal and two points.
With the signing of Semykin, the Lightning are adding a defenseman with size and an edge to the organizational depth. He’s unlikely to make the jump to the NHL right out of the gate. More likely, he’ll head to the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch to help anchor the blue line there. He has NHL size, plays with a bit of an edge and grit, and has shown that he has some offensive skills. He’ll need to translate what he learned in the junior ranks into the professional game and learn to play on the smaller ice surface of North America.
The Lightning should have Dominik Masin, Luke Witkowski, Ben Thomas, Devante Stephens, and Oleg Sosunov returning on the blue line from last year’s squad for the Syracuse Crunch. Cal Foote could also be back with Syracuse, but he should also be getting a chance to make the NHL roster out of training camp. Daniel Walcott was also recently re-signed and could also serve on the blue line, but he’s played more forward the last few seasons.
I would guess that Semykin will slot in as the second or third left handed defenseman on the roster with Masin likely serving as the top left hander, unless a veteran like Cameron Gaunce is brought in to top the depth chart. Semykin is unlikely to get much power play time with the Crunch, but you never know with his big shot from the blue line.
Going back to the draft, maybe the Lightning knew other teams had found Semykin as well, which could have led to them taking him in the third round instead of risking waiting on him. Or the Lightning could have just graded him out, put him on their board, and took him in the third round because he was the best player on their board. We may never know on that one. But what’s clear is that the Lightning saw enough in him as a player to draft him in the third round and still see enough from him to sign him to an entry level contract and get a start on his professional career in North America.