This is the second article in our Oilers Draft Watch 2011 series.
Zakhar Arzamastsev is ranked all over the board depending who is doing the ranking. The Scouting Report has him ranked 72nd overall, and 14th among European skaters, 1st among KHL players. They've got him penciled in as solid 3rd round choice. NHL Central Scouting has Arzamastsev ranked 18th amongst European Skaters. An NHL scout I spoke with thinks there is uncertainty around his willingness to leave the KHL and doesn't see him going until the 4th or 5th round. Kyle Woodlief notes that Arzamastsev "Gets absolutely no viewings as a late 1992 Russian..." which may lead to the discrepancies in the various lists.
#42 / Defense / Metallurg Novokuznetsk
June 11, 1992
|2010 - Zakhar Arzamastsev||21||1
|2010 - Zakhar Arzamastsev||47||3
While Arzamastsev's counting numbers don't jump off of the page and look rather small in comparison to some of the defensive talents being talked about as first round picks, there is a nugget of information in there that makes the young Russian an intriguing prospect.
Arzamastsev just completed his second season in the KHL, meaning he broke into the second-best league in the world at the age of 17. Granted, he played those games for the worst team in the KHL, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, but it was high-level competition nonetheless. Novokuznetsk was last in the KHL in goals for this season, with only 105 goals in 54 games. 36 of those goals were on the power play and 3 were short-handed, meaning Novokuznetsk scored 66 goals at even strength. Arzamastsev scored 3 goals and chipped in with 6 assists, all but one assist coming at even strength, meaning he was involved in 12.1% of his team's even strength goals playing only 12:15 minutes per game. As a comparison, here are the same numbers for the Edmonton Oilers, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators in 2010-2011:
He was involved in as much even-strength scoring as Kronwall, Suter, Gilbert and Lidstrom. This is not to suggest that Arzamastsev will score at rates similar to Suter, Kronwall or Gilbert in the NHL, however, it does show his % of contribution is similar to defensemen considered to be puck-moving defensemen.
So while the counting numbers don't look great at first glance, there may be some yet-to-be-revealed offense in his game and it's being held back by the overall weakness of his team. It's worth noting that Dmitri Orlov, a Capitals draft choice widely considered to be a blue-chip prospect and a puck-moving defenseman tallied 13 total points, only 4 more than Arzamastsev, but played 257 more minutes and was on the team's top power play pairing. There's a very good chance that the scouts are underrating Arzamastsev's offense.
And it's that lack of offense that seems to depress his ranking. Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said of Arzamastsev:
"Zakhar is a stay at home d-man. He played with Novokuznetsk until he hurt his shoulder in February and he probably had surgery in Germany. He had good size, is cool and talented. He could improve his first-step quickness, but he's a good passer and plays his position well. He's not flashy, but very dependable."
"He has been playing a limited role, about ten minutes a night, but still he proved that he can play in such high level as the KHL. Arzamastsev is a good two-way defenseman with a good shot and a fast deliver. He already scored in the KHL and this shows that he's not out of place playing in a pro league. With that being said he needs to improve his defensive presence, physical play and positioning before thinking about crossing the pond. He has got a good size already, but some additional muscle wouldn't hurt."
"Arzamastsev is a rather good skater even if he’s not a speedster. He showed good offensive instincts, but he tends to play on a very simple game and in this aspect he might be compared to Nikita Zaitsev, another junior player who struggles in playing with his creativity. With that being said he displayed good reading of the ice in both offensive and defensive situations. He needs to work over various aspects of his game – his shot, physical play and strength, mainly. Like many Russian junior defensemen often he pokechecks rather than throwing the body around, but this is something that will be easy to fix once he’ll be more adjusted to the pro game. He’s definitely NHL material and he has some chances to get a WJC spot in spite of his young age."
At first glance, his +/- also looks to be a concern. But again, compared to his teammates, the +/- is almost a positive.
||+/-||TOI||+/- per 60|
We don't have ESTOI, so the per 60 is on a total TOI basis. However, we do know that he received little to no power play time and Angell, Orlov and Jerofejevs received significant power play minutes. That means Arzamastsev probably had the 3rd best per 60 number on the team.
With the 62nd and 74th picks, the Oilers may decide to take a run at the kid from Siberia with that 62nd pick, especially if they load up on impact forwards at the top of the draft with picks 1, 19 and 31. Adding a calm presence with the ability to move the puck well from the blueline is only going to solidify the defensive pool, an organizational weakness right now. If he does have the offensive ability, they may uncover a hidden gem.