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The Copper & Blue Top 25 Under 25 - #14 Dmitri Samorukov

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The Russian rearguard will be back in North America after a brief stint in the KHL, and could might see his first NHL action this year.

2020/2021 Kontinental Hockey League: CSKA Moscow vs Spartak Moscow Photo by Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images

Dmitri Samorukov is no stranger to the Top 25 Under 25, marking his fourth consecutive appearance in our annual ranking of the Oilers best young players. We’re edging toward the top ten here, which means he’s competing with blue-chippers, high-level minor leaguers on the brink of the NHL, and legitimate NHL talent for position on this list.

Rankings

2021 C&B Staff Rank 2021 C&B Reader Rank
2021 C&B Staff Rank 2021 C&B Reader Rank
14 8

Last year: 10

2019: 11

2018: 19

A tale of two rankings. He fell back a few slots this season, likely in large part due to his solid — if unspectacular, at least offensively — season in the KHL and the glut of young, talented forwards ahead of him. Among defensemen, Samorukov ranks third. The readers apparently see him a little more generously than that, and that’s to be expected given the subjectivity of ranking prospects like this. While someone like Tyler Benson might be ahead of him due to his impressive AHL career and being on the precipice of NHL work this season, his having multiple AHL seasons to this point might be considered a red enough flag to drop him down a few slots. I think you could make a reasonable case either way.

Samorukov was drafted 84th overall, in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft after a modest 4-16-20 in 67 games in his first season with the Guelph Storm. He saw his raw totals — and responsibilities — increase steadily with every season, culminating in a 10-35-45 (in 59GP) breakout campaign in 2018-19 which he then backed up with a gaudy 10-18-28 in 24 playoff games and a Memorial Cup appearance.

His first professional season saw him play 47 AHL games (2-8-10) in 2019-20 before the world paused and he opted to head back to Russia rather than risk missing a critical development season. There, he added 2-6-8 in 48 GP — and helped his team kick absolute ass while he was on, outscoring opponents to the tune of 38-14 — before suffering a shoulder injury. Is this guy an Oiler or what? That shoulder injury unfortunately cost him a deep playoff run with the eventual runners up CSKA Moscow, but all signs point to Samorukov being healthy and ready to resume his career in North America.

The Oilers left side depth chart, as of this writing, includes names like Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith, Slater Koekkoek, William Lagesson and Kris Russell. That’s a handful of bodies to leapfrog into NHL work and I don’t really see that happening at camp unless. Of course, it’s not like any of those bodies represent an unreachable high water mark and, if Samorukov impresses, it’s not impossible to imagine him sitting in Evan Bouchard’s spare chair to start the season. It seems more likely to me, though, that Philip Broberg is the organization’s preferred prospect on the left side of defense, but Samorukov could at least make it interesting with a strong 2021-22. If they both get cut to California, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Woodcroft prefer Samorukov, at least in the short term.

I would guess that he starts in Bakersfield in a prominent role. Top four at minimum with a heavy dose of the PK. Samorukov taking a genuine step forward this season would go some way to taking the sting out of Ken Holland decimating the D corps a few months ago.