Canucks Army Midterm Prospect Rankings: #10 Dmitry Zhukenov


Dmitry Zhukenov is a player that many in this space expected a leap forward from this season. Perhaps no one more so than yours truly.

Playing in his second year with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Zhukenov’s failed to build on a strong if unspectacular start to his North American career. Playing in the Sagueneens’ top six, Zhukenov has 37 points in 39 games. For Zhukenov to start to impress upon us his long-term NHL prospects, he’s going to have to start translating his high-end hockey sense and awareness into tangible production.

For now, though, Zhukenov checks out as the tenth ranked prospect in the Canucks Army Midterm Prospect Rankings. Exactly where he was when we last checked in.


Before I delve too deeply, let’s quickly review the criteria for a qualifying prospect: 

  • The player must be 25 years or younger, and
  • The player must be eligible for the Calder Trophy next season.

As a result, players that are considered to be “graduated” to the NHL (Brendan Gaunce, Nikita Tryamkin, Jake Virtanen, Anton Rodin) are not eligible.


The Rundown


It’s not hard to see what parts of Zhukenov’s game drew the Canucks attention. For a player on the smaller side of the ledger, he’s not shy of playing in front of the opposition’s net and his intelligence and vision make him value added from the defensive zone. None of that’s changed for the worse in the two years he’s spent in their system.

Zhukenov’s role on the Sagueneens changes from game-to-game, and looking therein we might be able to find out why it’s been difficult for the Russian import to distinguish himself as a prospect. With Nicolas Roy playing on the Sagueneens’ first line, Zhukenov is either playing on his left wing or as the club’s second-line centre. It’s fair to wonder if Zhukenov could produce well above the point per game clip he’s at now playing in a premier role.

As friend of the Army Shane Malloy was apt to point out, Zhukenov has high-end hockey sense and works the give and go well in tight spaces. And whereas Zhukenov’s offensive production has, more or less, plateaued, Malloy indicated on the Gametime Decision Podcast that Zhukenov’s defensive game has taken a significant step forward this season.


Players who produce at below a point per game pace in their draft or higher season don’t generally tend to have NHL success, which reflects itself in Zhukenov’s paltry 1.7% expected success rate. Players in Zhukenov’s cohort with NHL success averaged about 33 points a game, which makes sense, given a third line centre is about as optimistic a projection one can grant him


One of my biggest regrets is that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation didn’t grant us the opportunity to see Zhukenov play at the World Junior Hockey Championships. I tend to think there was a strong enough case for Zhukenov, but he was a long shot ever to make that team the second he left the MHL for the QMJHL.

For now, we’re left waiting to see how Zhukenov will fare against stiffer competition than that offered in the ‘Q’. It’s entirely possible we’ll be left waiting next season, too. As Ryan Biech wisely pointed out, the Canucks don’t have to sign Zhukenov this season to retain his rights. They can wait it out until next summer. That could mean he’ll play his overage season in the ‘Q’.

Here’s hoping Zhukenov finds another gear offensively in the mean time. It’s put up or shut up time for the 19-year-old as a junior prospect.

  • wojohowitz

    I don`t why everyone likes this kid so much. Even now he should not be number 10 on the prospects list but maybe number 20. For starters he`s not very big. He`s not the best player on his team. He`s not one of the best half dozen Russians in the Q. He`s not an all star. He doesn`t go to the WJC. He`s a second line center on a bad team. He has done nothing to distinguish himself. I don`t think this kid gets a contract. Even yesterdays 11 and 12 should be ahead of Zhekenov.

    • Riley Miner

      You’re forgetting he’s losing his 1st C role to a guy who, contrary to most of his teammates, is very much a great player. Re: WJC snub, it’s partially politics. Much like the US, the Russian national team prefers players in the Russian system rather than ones that go to play in NA. You seem overly pessimistic about him; yes, he’s probably going to be an AHL player, but that’s how our system is. He’s an intriguing shifty, skilled player, one that we lack in our system. That’s why they’re fascinated with him. Problem, comrade?

  • Bud Poile

    In his first draft as Canucks GM Benning pulled what looks like the best draft class in Nucks history within the last 40-45 years.

    Five of six drafted could play in the NHL with Demko making four that will have certain,meaningful NHL playing time.

    There were only 18 NHL franchises back then with the Canucks consistently winning only 20 of 80 NHL games so they drafted consistently high in the top ten.

    Don’t be overly concerned if this fourth rounder doesn’t carve out an NHL career,but the odds favour him.

    • J.D. Burke

      If you can take only one thing away from this post, it’s probably the exact opposite of “the odds favour him”. He has a sub 2% expected success rate.

          • DJ_44

            This is true, but that is not the measure of drafting ability.

            Based on previous comments, I also give you more credit for actually understanding development curves.

            From 2014 three are playing in the show (McCann, Tryamkin, Forsling), although McCann would not be up if not for injury, he would be developing in the AHL. 2 more are developing in the AHL (which is where they should be at this stage).

            Do you actually think that 5 of Benning’s seven picks from 2014 will not play 200 games in the NHL? By any measure, you have to say that is impressive.

          • Chris the Curmudgeon

            Sure, that’s true, but Benning thought so much of two of the three guys who have actually shown some measure of success that he packaged them off in trades for a guy that barely even played with the team before being a throw in in another trade (Forsling for Clendening) and another guy who would barely crack the top 6 D on a good team (McCann + other stuff for Gudbranson). If you’re going to give Benning a thumbs up for pre-draft talent evaluation, you have to pretty much take it away, and then some, for his dismal record during the post-draft development process.

        • DJ_44

          I think it is fair to re-iterate what CA writers have stated over and over.

          The “2%” means that 2% of players with similar qualities measured (age, league, points, size?) have gone to to play X games in the NHL. This methods has the advantages and perils of all statistical analysis, but it does not express personal opinion. From this one and other articles JD has written, I think he is reservedly optimistic on Zhukenov.

          “You can argue with me but you caaaaan’t argue with numbers” –Froghorn Leghorn

      • apr

        Is that 2% for Zhukenov, or 2% for 4th rounders? Because if that’s the case with 4th rounders, stop advocating selling off our veterans who are an integral part of our team not being Edmonton/Leafs for the past 15 years for kids who have a 2% chance of making the NHL.

      • Whackanuck

        J.D, IIRC pGPS only uses age, height, and scoring. While all three are related to success, there’s got to be more to NHL expected success. Perhaps the stats aren’t available for juniors so it’s the best we’ve got. I’m also of the mind that, like political promises, we don’t go back enough to recall if pGPS was actually an accurate predictor of players who are now post-draft.

        Zhukenov’s percentage expected success may be accurate -I just don’t think we know using pGPS. Lack of progress in height and scoring is certainly concerning. I think desperate hope is causing we Canucks fans to overrate a lot of Canucks’ prospects.

        • Andy

          Of course pGPS doesn’t account for everything, but it does give historical context. What that context suggests is that if Zhukenov makes the show, it’s certainly a rarity based on his stats, size, and league of play.

          It’s important to recall that Zhukenov is listed as 5’11, 175 lb – more Curtis Valk than Bo Horvat. Thankfully, many scouts are still bullish on him, which suggests they see enough skill to overcome the slight stature.

          That said, until NHL coaches and GMs stop assuming size > skill, there’s no denying that Zhukenov has an uphill battle to make it as an NHL regular, regardless of the assessment method.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Wow Bud, I understand optimism but you really are some kind of shill.

      And, I wonder if the fact that our 6th overall pick is turning into a colossal bust right before our eyes doesn’t dampen your enthusiasm for that draft a little bit.

    • Hockey Warrior

      L-O-L Bud the DUD strikes again. What a deluded SENILE OLD F&RT you are Dud. Do yourself (and US) a favour and go follow something a little less taxing for you, like CURLING!

      Class of 2014 Lowdown

      Virtanen – BUST, sent down and struggling in the minors (BENNING could’ve picked EHLERS, NYLANDER, RITCHIE or ROBBIE FABBRI)

      McCann – TRADED already

      Demko – UNPROVEN but bang AVERAGE in the AHL so far and therefore NOT READY for the show.

      Tryamkin – Like him but massively over-hyped because of his size and needs tons of work.

      Forsling – Traded already

      Petit and McKenzie – still in the minors

      In fact DAVE NONIS’S cast of 2004 has PROVEN far superior to Benning’s ‘best Canuck draft in 45-50 years’ with all these guys making the NHL and actually PLAYING for the CANUCKS, two of which remain KEY PLAYERS 13 YEARS LATER!

      Corey Schneider

      Alex Edler

      Mike Brown

      Jannick Hansen (9th round 287th overall)

      Now, shuffle along Bud, you are utterly HUMILIATED and a laughing stock.

  • Steamer

    Think Zhukenov is deserving of an ELC; has shown constant – if not dramatic – improvement
    & displays a physical tenacity to match steady defensive awareness with some offensive abilities.

  • JuiceBox

    I’m not overly upbeat about the state of the Canucks prospect pool at the moment. When your #10 prospect has a 2% chance of becoming a 3rd line center there is a definitely an issue. Having the top of the pool hacked off because they got jobs in the NHL doesn’t help matters. The Canucks organization has come along way in the last 3 years with it’s prospect pool but it is still concerning that they are in a place right now where they NEED almost all of their prospects to become NHLer’s to support any future success. It would be nice to get to a place where the we don’t have to hope beyond hope that every guy in the system can make the jump. I understand that Benning had to move picks to acquire players to keep the team afloat and as much as I disagree with Dirk22 at times, he is right in that the lack of total number of prospects in the system is hurting or could hurt the team in the long run as there isn’t a lot of room for error.

    Up to this point Benning has had the challenge of building a competitive NHL team AND re-stocking the cupboard at the same time. He could have emptied what was left of the system and completely gutted this team of draft picks and prospect like Gillis did in the hopes of winning now, or he could have gutted the NHL team to rebuild the franchise from the ground up. He chose (or was forced) to take on both at once; it’s a near impossible job that he never seems to get enough credit for. Now that he has “committed” to this core of players, hopefully he can refocus his efforts from building a semi-competitive NHL team to increasing the size and depth of the prospect pool.

    Benning seems to very adept at finding talented players in the later rounds but TBH I haven’t really been impressed with the Canucks high draft picks under him. A local boy and power forward (Virtanen), a potential #1 defenseman (Juolevi), and (at the time) the top two-way center in the draft (McCann) look good on paper, but my-oh-my how different this team would look right now with Tkachuk, Ehlers, and Pastrnak.

    • Steamer

      Pertinent points. Benning is kind of all over the map vis-à-vis prospects/drafts/signings – some look promising ( Boesser, Gaudette, Lockwood, et al ), others are more of a head-scratch ( Stewart, Abols, LaPlante, et al ).
      Juolevi may be a diamond – but would have preferred Tkachuk – ditto Virtanen vs. Ehlers.
      Personally don’t have a ton of confidence in analytics being used to determine/foresee the future success of prospects – in large part because of so many false assumptions ( ie: discounting ‘secondary’ assists – any one who has played hockey knows that the importance of assists is not accurately reflected by whether or not it’s the 1st or 2nd assist – often the big play leading to a goal doesn’t even garner an assist ). A look at Bo Horvat’s trajectory reveals the challenge in attempting to project success with teenage hockey players.

      • JuiceBox

        I wanted Ehlers right from the very beginning. Every scouting report said nothing but positive things about him. Virtanen’s reports always had a “but” or “concern” in them. I’m no pro scout but to me Virtanen was Ehlers-lite. I live in Calgary and had many opportunities to watch Virtanen play and I always came away feeling very underwhelmed and not understanding what the hype was about. He didn’t own the ice, or play like a man, or take control of a game like all of his scouting reports said. He played very “arrogant” and disinterested and his play away from the puck was lazy with no effort. I guess some things never change.

        At the time McCann was projected by many to be the top two-way center in the draft. The perfect meat and potatoes player Benning likes, but when a player who is projected to go somewhere around 9-11, falls all the way to 24th that should be a YUGE red flag. Benning and Co. were so blinded by their need to find the next Patrice Bergeron, that they were completely oblivious to the highly-skilled winger that was taken one spot later.

        The Juolevi pick puzzled me. This is a team that’s stated goal is to win while the Sedins are still here yet they pass on an NHL-ready forward to select a defenseman that they knew wouldn’t be ready for at least 2 to 3 years if not more. It still makes me shake my head and wonder what they were thinking. I guess that’s the balancing act between win now and plan for later.

    • Dirk22

      You say Gillis “gutted this team of draft picks and prospects” yet Benning has already traded away more draft picks in less than 3 years than Gillis did in 6 years.

      • JuiceBox

        It looks like we should both do our homework next time.

        Between June 2008 and April 2014 Mike Gillis traded away 12 picks and brought back in 7, net -5

        From May 2014 to now Benning has traded away 10 picks and brought back in 9, net -1.

        • Dirk22

          OK – lets get this right (see below). My point still stands. Their trading/obtaining of draft picks is nearly identical – it’s just that Benning’s done it in half the time. If he continues to GM the way he’s been going….well you can do the math.

          Picks they traded away:
          Gudbranson x 2
          Larson X 1
          Etem X 1
          Sutter X 1
          Prust X 1
          Baertschi X 1
          Pedan x 1
          Vey X 1
          Dorsett x 1
          Garrison X 1
          Kesler X 1

          = 12

          Picks they’ve obtained:
          Gudbranson x 1
          Sutter X 1
          Bieksa x 1
          McNally X 1
          Lack x 2
          Kesler X 1
          Garrison X 1

          = 8

          • JuiceBox

            Touche – I missed the Dorsett and Vey trades, but they got 2 (not one) back for Kesler so 12 out and 9 in.

            Either way, you are right. It’s difficult to maintain the long term health of the prospect pool if they are constantly bleeding draft picks. Even if the top of the pool is very strong, the strength is in sheer numbers.

            As I said before, hopefully Benning was being honest when he said he isn’t trading away any more picks and hopefully the focus can turn to acquiring more.

  • elvis15

    One of the prospects I’m excited for. Not only is he a talented player who makes others around him better, he’s a very strong faceoff man when he plays center. Sure, he’s a little small and isn’t exactly tearing up the Q with respect to points, but we’ll have to see if he can carry his positive play over into the pro game against men.

  • Fred-65

    #20 JuiceBox

    The Juolevi pick puzzled me. This is a team that’s stated goal is to win while the Sedins are still here yet they pass on an NHL-ready forward to select a defenseman that they knew wouldn’t be ready for at least 2 to 3 years if not more. It still makes me shake my head and wonder what they were thinking. I guess that’s the balancing act between win now and plan for later.”

    Add to that when drafting Juolevi they were well aware of Huttons progress and were going all out for Strecher so ….. was Juolevi in light off that the best selection. Just to add salt to the would Benning then tell’s the fans what we need is a scoring winger, no sh!t Sherlock

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Keep in mind that Gillis was trading away President’s Trophy winner level draft picks, whereas Benning is playing with lottery winner picks. Benning giving away 33rd overall last year (basically like a low 1st rounder, and in a good year) was not the same thing as Gillis giving up 59th overall in 2011. Benning’s draft picks are more valuable than Gillis’s were.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Listen guys – You cannot build for the future through draft picks when you are a WINNING FRANCHISE, so I don’t CARE what Gillis gave away because under this NHL GM of the YEAR I saw my team win 5 DIVISION TITLES, 1 Western Conference title, 2 PRESIDENTS TROPHIES, qualify for the playoffs EVERY year of his 5 year tenure and reach a game seven of the STANLEY CUP FINAL for only the second time in our history. That outweighs ANYTHING else you lot bicker about.

    In comparison, what have we got to brag about under BENNING after three years?… even our TOP player is a GILLIS draft pick.

    Wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • DJ_44

    ‘Listen guys – You cannot build for the future through draft picks when you are a WINNING FRANCHISE”

    You could certainly maintain a winning franchise if you actual have a clue how to draft.

  • Cageyvet

    Lost in many of these comments is what Gillis traded for – a lot of rental players. Love him or criticize him for it, he was chasing the cup. Had he drafted a little better, it would have been less of an issue. Had he gotten some assets worth keeping, that also would have helped.

    It’s not about the volume of trades, it’s the intent and the value received. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want your GM trading away picks if he was winning the deal every time.

    In the barren wilderness of scouting that has plagued this franchise, I’m always surprised by the amount of criticism levelled at Benning. His regime is drafting well, and somehow everyone’s an expert but not our GM.

    You’d think that the emergence of Granlund and the continued proof that Baertschi is an NHL’er would have people toning it down. Where are all those who questioned the 2nd rounder for Baer and freaked out over giving up 1st rounder Shinkaruk for Granlund? He’s been given the job of fixing a franchise that lacked any fire, and had lost it’s swagger. Give him some time and let the man do his job.