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Photo Credit: Instagram via @zlodeev36

‘I want to start playing hockey as soon as possible’: Canucks prospect Dmitri Zlodeyev has a massive year ahead of him

The Canucks took a flyer on Dmitri Zlodeyev when they selected him in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The now 19-year-old centre had an up and down season over in Russia. He scored at a great pace in the Russian minor leagues, putting up seven goals in 19 games while also taking a step in the Russian junior league and totalling 12 points in 16 games. He battled an eye injury, a long-term illness that kept him out for a month, and an upper-body injury that kept him off the ice for six weeks.

It was a tough season for Zlodeyev but he battled through and was able to capture the Russian Junior League championship with his MHK Dynamo Moskva team.

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“Victory in the MHL playoffs was my favourite memory of the past year,” said Zlodeyev. “It was an amazing feeling to be fully healthy.”

This coming year, Zlodeyev will compete in the World Junior Championships for Russia while trying to work his way to the KHL and make his debut in Russia’s top professional league. Zlodeyev was supposed to make his KHL debut this past season but the eye injury forced him to miss the debut and he didn’t end up getting another shot later in the season after battling injuries throughout the season.

The World Junior Championships will be a big stage for Zlodeyev this winter. From speaking to many sources who cover the Russian national team, the overall sense is that Zlodeyev is a lock to make the team and should be the centre on one of the two top-six lines. Zlodeyev has played with Junior national teams in the past and is ready for the big stage this December.

“I want to win it,” said Zlodeyev. “I want to show my best game and time will tell what my role is with the Russian junior team.”

He will likely have his childhood friend Bogdan Trineyev on his wing at the WJC. Trineyev is a Washington Capitals draft pick and was born in the same small town as Zlodeyev.

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“It will be decided by the coach,” said Zlodeyev. “Whether we play together is not an open question.”

Even though there aren’t games going on currently, Zlodeyev is working with the Russian development team to improve this offseason. It’s a big year for him and this is a player who is obsessed with hockey. When I asked him about what his favourite things to do in the offseason are away from the rink, he said “nothing” and that he just wants to play hockey all the time.

“Before the start of each season, I have excitement and desire to start playing,” said Zlodeyev. “I want to start playing hockey as soon as possible. This offseason, I want to get strong and faster on the ice.”

Zlodeyev confirmed that he and his agent have had conversations with the Canucks throughout the past year and have talked this offseason as well. His agent has spoken with Ryan Johnson and Chris Higgins about Zlodeyev’s upcoming year.

Getting to the KHL as a 19-year-old would be a huge step in his development and should have Canucks fans on notice. Zlodeyev believes that this is the year where he breaks into the KHL.

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“I think I’m ready for the next step,” said Zlodeyev.

When asked about what he thought about coming to North America to play in the AHL and work his way up to the NHL, Zlodeyev was excited about the opportunity. He wants to one day be an NHL player and is willing to do it through the AHL path.

“Playing in the NHL is my dream and I want to try my strength someday,” said Zlodeyev.

He also commented on Vasily Podkolzin and his NHL readiness.

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β€œHe is ready to play in the NHL,” said Zlodeyev. β€œHis character will allow him to break into the team. He’s a leader who never gives up, helps his comrades and believes in victory to the end.”

The 2021-22 season is a massive one for Zlodeyev. If he is able to stay healthy, he will continue to impress scouts and Canucks management who are already high on the two-way centre with great offensive instincts.

Canucks fans who aren’t as invested in overseas prospects will get a good viewing of him at the upcoming WJC and that is where we could see some hype similar to the buzz around Arvis Costmar from this past World Junior tournament start to generate.

We will continue to follow Zlodeyev as he works his way through the offseason and into the 2021-22 season.