Four Russian players have been selected in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft.
The Arizona Coyotes picked two — and they happened to be teammates in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization in 2022-23.
Dmitri Simashev and Daniil But were two of the biggest players selected in Nashville on Wednesday night. And to hear Daily face-to-face‘s Steven Ellis say it, they also have some of the biggest advantages.
The Coyotes sent shockwaves through the hockey world by selecting Simashev 6th overall. But they weren’t done there, having acquired the Ottawa Senators’ No. 12 pick as part of the Jakob Chychrun deal before the 2023 trade deadline.
Simashev was live with Sportsnet’s Colby Armstrong and Ailish Forfar when the Yotes returned to the podium six picks later. Both hosts asked Simashev who he hopes his new team will take with their second choice.
« A Russian guy, » Simashev replied. « Daniil But is my Lokomotiv team-mate. »
Coyotes director of amateur scouting Darryl Plandowski must have heard it. As Plandowski announced that Arizona would indeed take Goal, the smile on Simashev’s face turned into a look of surprise – and then elation.
“We played at Lokomotiv! exclaimed Simashev. « Daniil But is my good friend, my good teammate. I think he’s a bit like Tage Thompson from Russia.
The Coyotes picked both Simashev and But a little higher than where most viewers expected them to go. Although they were both considered consensus first-round talents ahead of Wednesday’s draft, very few people expected them to end up in the top 15.
Simashev, in particular, was one of the most controversial players available in this year’s draft. Although some outlets placed it in the top 10, others (including Daily face-to-face) dropped him as a teenager. TSN’s Craig Button dropped him to 38th.
Here’s what most scouts love about Simashev. He’s a terrific skater, especially for a player his size (six-foot-four, 201 pounds). Very, very few 17-year-old defenders play in the KHL, but Simashev played 18 games for Lokomotiv in 2022-23.
« We called [Simashev] the unicorn of the draft,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong told reporters Wednesday night. “It’s hard to find guys who can skate like that for a big man. We got to know him a bit and fell in love with his on-ice and off-ice personality.
« You can’t trade for defensemen like that in the National Hockey League, » Armstrong continued. « Our thought process was to write one, and we like where we found it. »
The Coyotes are no doubt hoping Simashev can be their version of Moritz Seider, who went from ‘stunning’ to ‘thief’ in the space of two years after being snapped by the Detroit Red Wings with the No. 6 pick in 2019.
Like Seider, Simashev didn’t post eye-popping numbers in his draft year, but he won over teams with his poise, finesse and physicality. If Simashev ends up following a similar trajectory, the Coyotes could be looking for someone who can match or eclipse Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s impressive peak years with the club.
That said, very, very few expected Simashev to be the first Russian selected in this year’s draft. Almost everyone expected it to be HC Sochi winger Matvei Michkov, who eventually went to the No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers. .
As PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan reported Wednesday night, the Coyotes came out of their pre-draft meeting with the « clear impression » that Michkov didn’t want to play for them.
Conversely, Simashev and But have expressed interest in joining the Coyotes.
But steadily increased a number of public draft boards throughout the season, finishing as high as 15th with the folks at McKeen’s Hockey. And our own Steven Ellis, who also called Simashev a “home run” pick, preached plenty of positives about Goal in his first-round retrospective.
« But it could be a high value pick here, » Ellis wrote. « He’s a lot more skilled than your average 6-foot-5 striker, which is very intriguing. He can do a lot of damage around the crease, both with his shot and the way he pushes players.
Armstrong echoed Simashev in comparing the six-foot-five Goal to Tage Thompson. The Yotes’ third-year general manager also compared Goal to Alex Tuch, but warned fans and spectators to be patient with his development. But, like Simashev, he is under contract with Lokomotiv for the next two seasons.
“I think for Simashev it’s just about refining what’s already there. I think with Goal it’s a bit more raw,” Armstrong said. “It will take a little longer because of its length. He looks like he’s grown since the last time we saw him, I think he’s close to six feet tall.
« What you get is that skill factor with size, and that’s hard to come by, » Armstrong continued. « We’re projecting him somewhere between a front and second line player. »
Arizona’s biggest need to enter this year’s draft was a long-term No. 1 defenseman. JJ Moser, Juuso Valimaki, Sean Durzi and Victor Soderstrom are all good players, but there wasn’t an obvious mainstay waiting in the wings before the Coyotes swung for the fences with Simashev.
Simashev will not be able to participate in any Coyotes development camp until his KHL contract with Lokomotiv expires in 2025. As is the case with any prospect recruited from outside Russia, the Yotes hold the signing rights. of Simashev in the NHL in perpetuity.
And while it might not seem so appealing for a young player to join an ever-rebuilding Coyotes team, who wouldn’t want to take on a new challenge – and prove the doubters wrong – alongside one of their best friends?
“I’m so excited. I’m very proud to have been drafted by Arizona,” But told reporters after being selected by the Coyotes. “Phenomenal, two friends drafted by the same team, we’re going to play together. «
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