Former Canucks’ fourth-round pick Dmitry Zhukenov is having the type of playoff run for the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens that makes clear why Vancouver was first interested in the Russian import. He’s in an eight-way tie for fifth in league scoring, and with goals like the one he scored in last night’s game, it’s not hard to see why. The kid can play.
#Canucks prospect Dmitry Zhukenov's goal yesterday was a nice one
Chips it forward on face, dekes the goalie and tucks it in pic.twitter.com/xhuw15pMdq
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) April 8, 2017
The question now for the Canucks is whether he’ll continue to dazzle with highlight reel goals on this side of the Atlantic. Just over a week ago, the website www.EliteProspects.com showed Zhukenov as a “doubtful transfer” to sign with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk, which essentially means that there are reports of preliminary discussions. Not long afterwards, KHL insider Aivis Kalnins confirmed Zhukenov signing with Omsk as a distinct possibility.
Preliminary talks indicate that he will but nothing official. https://t.co/5gkzDlz2O1
— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) March 29, 2017
I reached out to the Canucks for clarity on the situation, and while they’ve heard rumblings of Zhukenov’s KHL interest, they haven’t heard anything beyond that. Certainly nothing concrete.
To that exact end, the Canucks confirmed Ryan Biech’s assessment of the situation from when he profiled Zhukenov’s contractual situation just a few months prior. If Zhukenov does indeed sign with Omsk, the Canucks will hold his rights until June 1st, 2019.
Dmitry Zhukenov is an interesting case, as the Canucks retain his rights for four years despite playing the QMJHL. This is because the Canucks selected Zhukenov from the MHL. He was then selected in the CHL import draft and moved to Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. This is outlined in 8.6d of the NHL/NHLPA CBA:
So since the Canucks drafted Dmitry Zhukenov in the 2015 NHL Entry draft, they retain his negotiating rights until June 1, 2019. If by that time, they have not signed him to an entry-level contract, he would become a UFA.
I reached out to Kalnins for further commentary on the situation. Kalnins suggested that Omsk’s hiring of a new head coach could slow down the process, but that they are likely to begin recruiting players soon regardless. He also added that, based on what he knows about the situation, he expects that Zhukenov will sign with Omsk, with the caveat that he’d return to North America whenever ready.
Where things get interesting here is if the contract Zhukenov signs with Omsk (and that’s still a big if) goes beyond June 1st, 2019. The Canucks indicated that most often the team retains the player’s rights, save for rare exceptions, and that he’ll likely remain on their reserve list for the foreseeable future. As an example, they confirmed that they still hold Evgeny Gladskikh’s rights, and they drafted him in 2001.
Zhukenov finished his sophomore season with the Sagueneens with 65 points (18 goals and 47 assists) in 64 games. As of my writing this, Zhukenov has nine points in five playoff games. His quantitative bona fides don’t scream NHL success, but he’s always played an understated, mature type of 200-foot game that, perhaps, isn’t fully accounted for through this lens of prospect analysis.
For example, Zhukenov currently has a 22.31% Relative Goals for, which suggests his team fairs substantially better at controlling the flow of goals at even strength with Zhukenov on the ice than without him.
Regardless, it’s difficult to get too worked up over a prospect that the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (or pGPS for short) last indicated has a 1.7% expected success rate based on players with a similar statistical and stature based profile. No matter how sound Zhukenov’s qualitative credentials, the grim reality is he’s a massive long shot ever to play an NHL game.
When we last checked in with Zhukenov, he was the tenth-ranked prospect in the Canucks’ system per our mid-season prospect profile rankings. It will be interesting to see whether he does, in fact, bolt for the KHL and what impact that has on the young Russian’s development.