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Tampa Bay Lightning Top 25 Under 25: #23 Daniil Pylenkov

Let’s talk about a complete mystery box

Daniil Pylenkov (No.45) of SKA Saint Petersburg in action...
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - 2022/01/07: Daniil Pylenkov (No.45) of SKA Saint Petersburg in action during the 2021-22 KHL Regular season of the Kontinental Hockey League between SKA Saint Petersburg and Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod at the Ice Sports Palace. (Final score; SKA Saint Petersburg 2:0 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod).
Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Daniil Pylenkov was a triple overager last summer when the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted him in the seventh round. Standing at 6’1”, the left shot defender has a late birthday meaning he will be 22 when he begins this season with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. And because of the shallow prospect pool the Lightning are currently living with (everyone is old now!), he’s made it into our Top 25 Under 25.

Pylenkov was actually voted in by all the writers except me, so I’m going to spend this time talking about why he might deserve to be on this list, but also my perspective as to why I didn’t think he was worthy of a top 25 vote.

The Player

To begin, I think the reason Pylenkov got on people’s radar is because of his graduation from the MHL to the KHL, and then from the KHL to one of the KHL’s best teams in a transfer from Vityaz Podolsk. By the way, the reason why he was found by the Lightning at all is because Maxim Groshev is his teammate, so obviously the Lightning liked what they saw while scouting their own top prospect.

Getting into the lineup of a top team like St. Petersburg as a 21-year-old is deserves credit in and of itself, and on top of that he produced at a decent rate for defenders. When you dig a little deeper, you can see that he had a pretty high shot-rate in the KHL, meaning he was trying to drive a lot of the offense on his line.

This dates back to the Men’s World Juniors when he played for Russia. In the highlight below, Pylenkov wasn’t #11 doing lots of hard work to get the puck out of corner and avoid a turnover, but he was #6 who made a deceptive pass instead of shooting that led to a tap-in.

The KHL is not a league where defenders shoot a lot (unlike the Liiga where that’s a primary way to generate offense), but Pylenkov was averaging 1.3 shots per game in the KHL in 16 minutes a night. That’s pretty good.

Or is it? It should be noted that Pylenkov is as old as Dmitri Semykin, who also spent his teen years in SKA’s system and is now an ECHL defender who gets the occasional call up. Pylenkov may have been drafted recently, but his runway to develop and improve was short before he even arrived.

Putting it in a slightly different way, Pylenkov was the 6D on a team whose best defender was Mikko Lehtonen, a guy who couldn’t crack an NHL lineup, ditto for Igor Ozhiganov who was on the second pairing. For me, Pylenkov will need to beat these two defenders within the next year or so for me to believe he can be a good player in the AHL and with NHL aspirations.

At the moment, I think he’s a big defender with a big shot, but I have no idea what his game looks like outside of that or whether he’s being challenged in his development to take on the competition he needs to show it. I’d like to know what his skating looks like, how agile he can be with his 6’1” frame, and if he knows what he’s doing positionally defensively. The third highlight I shared below looks pretty good from what I can see but I really want to see more.

I guess that’s why these votes tend to skew towards players in the AHL. It’s just infinitely easier to watch those games and judge the quality of the players relative to their competition.


Pylenkov was the one making that nice pass from behind the net for a goal. Very impressive footwork and motion.


Will we ever see Daniil Pylenkov?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Someday he’s going to make it!
    (6 votes)
  • 47%
    Maybe in the AHL for a time
    (18 votes)
  • 36%
    I already forgot his name
    (14 votes)
38 votes total Vote Now