Photo Credit: Instagram via @zlodeev36

Vancouver Canucks prospect Dmitri Zlodeyev talks World Juniors, when he wants to be playing hockey in North America, and CS:GO

In the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Vancouver Canucks drafted a defensively sound Russian centre who also possesses a knack for creating offence.

That player is Dmitri Zlodeyev.

Since his draft day, Zlodeyev has been catching the eyes of Canucks fans with his highlight-reel goals and strong back-checks overseas in the MHL and VHL Russian leagues.

I had a long conversation with Zlodeyev earlier this week where we talked about a plethora of topics. From him being cut from the Russian World Junior team all the way to Game of Thrones, it was an interesting conversation where Google Translate was the star of the show. Zlodeyev gave some interesting answers and even had a little tidbit about when he wants to be playing hockey in North America.

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We started off by talking about his hometown of Voronezh. It’s a city of about a million people and produced only two NHL draftees prior to this year’s draft. Zlodeyev wasn’t the first Voronezh born player to go in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft as his linemate and childhood friend Bogdan Trineyev was selected in the fourth round by the Washington Capitals.

The relationship between Trineyev and Zlodeyev goes all the way back to their toddler days. The parents of these two NHL prospects were friends and Bogdan and Dmitri were born less than a month apart from each other. Zlodeyev described their relationship as more than friends, he called them “brothers”. Dynamo Moscow’s MHL super duo began playing hockey together when they were three years old. He wasn’t sure which of the two has a better shot but it’s clear to see that the smaller in stature Zlodeyev has dedicated more of a commitment to being a defensive player while Trineyev looks to be more of a scorer.

Growing up, Zlodeyev didn’t play many other sports. He said that the only sport he consistently practiced was gymnastics. When I asked him if he thought gymnastics helped him in hockey he said “I think yes, because it develops the body well”.

At the age of 13, Zlodeyev began his career with Dynamo Moscow. He is now at the point where his KHL debut is imminent and should come in the next couple months. I asked him about what that feeling will be like when he suits up for Dynamo M in the KHL.

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“I love this team and of course it will be a great moment for me.”

It will surely be a great moment for him when he makes his KHL debut. Doing it as an 18-year-old would be quite the feat for a player drafted in the sixth round of the draft.

Zlodeyev was very excited when he heard that the Vancouver Canucks were the team that selected him.

“I was very happy, because this is the first step towards a dream,” said Zlodeyev. “I think this is the dream of all players. Vancouver has a lot of good players, but Pettersson and Boeser are amazing. I know that this is a very beautiful city, and I will have to speak English there.”

When I asked if there are any NHL players that he likes to learn from as he watches, he said, “I don’t have a favourite player, I just like the way Crosby, Backstrom and O’Reilly play.”

The players he listed are three centres who are excellent in all areas of the ice. It’s no surprise to me that Zlodeyev is so committed to the defensive side of his game after learning that these are some of the players that he enjoys watching. I asked him about his defensive play and even showed him this clip to get his thoughts on it.

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“I try to be useful throughout the ice. I work on everything in my game,” he responded.

Well, the NHL players that he likes would sure be fans of that backcheck.

The big question for a lot of Canucks fans is when will he be coming to North America?

I asked Zlodeyev what his plans were and he said that he is under contract for the remainder of this season and then one more year after that. I pushed on the concern that many of us have about Russian players and their disdain to play in the AHL.

That’s when I heard some great news.

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My exact question was “Would you want to come play in the minor leagues here to work your way up to the NHL or rather stay in Russia?”

He responded by saying, “I am ready to play in the minor leagues”.

This is promising as Zlodeyev will have to fight and progress to make it as an NHL player. Coming over to North America for the 2022-23 season as a 20-year-old will certainly boost the Utica Comets and will show Zlodeyev what changes he will have to make to his game to be a professional hockey player in North America.

Zlodeyev should be a full-time KHL player next season. He actually mentioned that he was supposed to make his KHL debut earlier this week but had to miss it due to an injury that he received just last week. The injury is going to keep him out of action for the next two to three weeks but he hopes to make his KHL debut after recovering from said injury.

Russia just released their camp roster for the World Junior tournament and Zlodeyev was left off the list.

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I asked if he was sad to hear that he didn’t make the cut to which he said, “of course, but I will do my best to get there next year. I will do everything to improve myself.”

He should be a lock for next year’s team as head coach Igor Larionov has praised Zlodeyev recently on Vancouver sports radio.

Zlodeyev keeps constant contact with the Canucks’ Russian scout Sergei Chibisov and gets advice from him regularly. Chibisov has been with the Canucks since 1995 and also deals with Vasili Podkolzin.

Speaking of Podkolzin, Zlodeyev played alongside him at the recent Karjala Cup where the U20 Russian team raised the trophy as the tournament champions. I asked Zlodeyev what that tournament was like for him and how he felt about playing with fellow Canucks prospect Podkolzin.

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“It was a good experience for me and great emotions. All victories are special, but the main thing is what lies ahead. Podkolzin is a good player and a good person. Very strong on and off the ice.”

We wrapped up talking about what he does when he is not thinking about hockey.

Zlodeyev enjoys reading books, his favourite is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover. His favourite meals are steak or pasta and he’s not much of a TV watcher. However, he is currently binging through Game of Thrones and has one season left.

Please don’t ruin it by telling him how bad the finale is.

When he isn’t reading or playing hockey, you can find Zlodeyev snowboarding, shooting guns at the range or shooting noobs on CS:GO.

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He came in at number 11 on our top Canucks prospects ranking and if he is able to get into KHL action this season and have success, he is surely going to climb that list. He should be in a position to get ice time in the KHL as Dynamo M is fine with keeping him in the VHL and MHL but if the call is made for him to join the big club, he will get ice time. Dynamo M is in a very different situation compared to some of the powerhouse teams in the KHL like SKA and CSKA. They will actually give their young players ice time.

Zlodeyev has caught our eye with his play and now has let us into his life a bit more. He was a pleasure to talk to and said he will continue to work on his English so that we can air an interview with him one day. His dream is to be an NHL player and his playstyle fits what I believe the future role of a fourth-line centre can be.

There’s a long way to go for Zlodeyev but we are definitely here for Z-ride.