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‘Difficult to find clear flaws’: Are the Canucks prepared to take a chance on LD Dmitri Simashev with the 11th pick?

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Photo credit:© Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Isabella Urbani
10 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players who could be available for the Vancouver Canucks with the 11th pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. 
We’ve previously broken down Swedish right-shot defenceman Axel Sandin Pellikka; last season’s youngest NCAA player, BC’s own, Matthew Wood; Bo Horvat comparable, Slovakian centre Dalibor Dvorský; draft long shot Matvei Michkov; OHLer Calum Ritchie, and the fastest skater of the draft, USNTDP centre Oliver Moore. For this segment, we’ll momentarily depart from our pursuit of forwards to take a look at the 6’4, 201 lbs, left-shot Russian defenseman Dmitri Simashev. 
Who 
For the last two seasons, Dmitri Simashev mainly played for Loko Yaroslavl, a Russian junior hockey team, and made an 18-game appearance with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl at the KHL level. In two seasons with Loko Yaroslavl, Simashev recorded 26 points (6 G, 20 A) in 75 games and seven points (2 G, 5 A) in 12 playoff games. Simashev has yet to record his first KHL point but is expected to play with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl next season. Simashev has not managed to score more than five goals in a single season since he was the captain of Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl during the shortened 2020-21  season, when he scored seven goals in 11 games.
What the scouts are saying 
Smaht Scouting: “As long as Simashev is on the ice, you can sit back and relax, knowing that close to nothing is gonna get by him. His defensive game is very advanced for his age; he leads with his stick, extends his reach and establishes strong body positioning to angle attackers to the boards and minimise their options. He applies pressure to the puck with his stick first, and uses the blade and his body to block any attempt to get the puck to the middle of the ice, often cornering the attacker and forcing a turnover.”
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “While I wouldn’t call anything about Simashev’s game truly dynamic or standout at the NHL level, there is a lot about him that gets high grades. He has NHL skill and mobility, and in a 6-4 frame that is a highly appealing combination of traits. You think of the careers players like Rasmus Ristolainen and Mattias Ekholm have had and I could connect the dots with Simashev as a possible outcome.”
Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff: “I didn’t love his game in the first half, but his late-season play really grew on me, especially during the MHL playoffs. Against his own age group, he can carry the load on the blueline and can be physically intimidating. Scouts are all over the place with him, but I like his potential.”
Cam Robinson, Elite Prospects: “At the MHL level, Simashev is a smothering presence. He thwarts oncoming rushes with his footwork, his closing speed, his active stick and his penchant for denying the line at every opportunity. He’s so large and so mobile, that playing against juniors looks almost too easy for him at times.”
Dylan Griffing, Elite Prospects: “It’s becoming less and less about his performances and more about praying that he puts up some points. At this point, great games are just the expectations set for him and he keeps living up to them. He just eats people alive, kills attacks, and turns plays the other way. The offense continues to impress, though, he’s becoming more of a menace on the offensive blueline, using his edges and shifting body weight to send defenders the other way and then opening up space to work.”
Rankings (per Elite Prospects) 
Because Simashev has been projected to go anywhere from the top 10 to the second day of the draft, his average draft ranking places him at 25th overall. Unlike other prospects, a considerable factor in Simashev’s rankings is the fact that he’s signed to a KHL contract for the next two seasons and will most likely have to spend an extra two years working his way up from the AHL to the NHL. The Canucks’ recent insurgence of Russian players like Andrei Kuzemnko, Ilya Mikheyev, and Vasily Podkolzin, who have all made the switch from the KHL to the NHL, will undoubtedly be a source of comfort for the 18-year-old if he does end up in a Canucks sweater come draft day. 

PROSPECT COVERAGE PRESENTED BY BETWAY

Conclusion 
All in all, Simashev is a fantastic defenceman. He’s this draft’s best neutral zone and shutdown defenceman, third-best four-way mobility player, fourth hardest hitter and straight-line skater, and fifth-best tactical defenceman, according to Elite Prospects. It’s hard to find an attribute that isn’t good enough already for Simashev. At 6’4 and weighing a substantial 200-plus lbs, he’s the best defensive skater, and one of the better skaters overall in this year’s draft class. The only real criticism scouts have for Simashev is his scoring. With the tools he does have — speed, mobility, ample puck protection, terrific one-pass breakouts — it’s a shame he doesn’t have more points. However, all scouts said that during his 18-game outing in the KHL, despite not recording a point, he kept pace with the players out there. Simashev isn’t a flashy defender. He has the hands to be one, and occasionally he’ll use them to undress players while moving the puck up the ice, but he’s focused on taking the body first. Because he does have the creativity to drop down and make plays below the goal line, scouts would like him to activate more, because when he does, good things typically follow.
It’s also rare to see Simashev shoot the puck. His shot isn’t the strongest and won’t do damage by itself. But he’s not looking to walk in and shoot the puck or hammer home a one-timer from the top of the line. He’s a mobile, puck maneuvering defenceman. Any shot he does take is meant to make contact with a teammate’s stick. Ultimately, adding a defensive shooting threat to the Canucks’ arsenal for the future would be preferable, but Simashev does already check off two of the Canucks’ biggest criteria going forward, and what seems to be the recipe for success lately across the league: size and urgency in defencemen.
Current Canucks coach Rick Tocchet had this to say about the defencemen for the Stanley Cup Final Vegas Golden Knights during the regular season: “Vegas is one of my favourites with that defence — big and they move the puck and jump into the play.” Sounds like Simashev to me. But as a left-handed defenceman, and someone the Canucks wouldn’t have access to for at least the next two years, will Simashev be available for the Canucks at 11th overall, and is he worth the risk? 
What would your reaction be if the Canucks drafted Dmitri Simashev? Let us know in the comments section below!

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