We kick off the top-10 with the only pure centre on our list.
Throughout the earlier rankings, we have talked about how important this coming season is for each player’s development. Now we land on a player whose coming season will be the most showcased outside of the NHL crowd that features Vasily Podkolzin and Jack Rathbone.
Dmitri Zlodeyev has a chance to wow Canucks fans this coming year as he will compete in the World Junior Championships along with making his way up to the KHL at some point this season. Zlodeyev has worked his way into the spotlight and it’s time for the Russian centre to showcase his abilities.
Coming in at number 10 on our rankings, let’s have a look into the defensive-minded centre who thrives in the faceoff dot, Dmitri Zlodeyev.
Weight: 185 lbs
2021-22 Team: Dynamo Krasnogorsk, VHL (Hopefully time with Dynamo Moskva in the KHL)
Zlodeyev was selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and has shown well since the Canucks attained his rights. Last season, he bounced around between the Russian junior league and the VHL. In 19 VHL games, Zlodeyev had a heck of a scoring touch with seven goals in those 19 games. He isn’t a sniper or possess a great one-timer, instead, he is a grinder who goes to the net hard and has a knack for tipping pucks past goalies.
The reason to be excited about Zlodeyev is for the type of player that he is. The way he plays the game looks to be the future of fourth-line centres in the league. He’s agile, brings so much effort on every shift and has good enough hands to score when the situations present themselves. It’s always been a dream of Zlodeyev’s to play in the NHL and he is excited for the opportunity to one day come over and play in the AHL to then work his way up. And frankly, with the Canucks’ centre prospect depth, he may get that chance as soon as 2023-24. Zlodeyev wants to get to the KHL. If he is able to get there this season, it opens up the door for the Canucks to pursue a contract with Zlodeyev during the Summer of 2022.
Zlodeyev has played on the power play in the Russian junior league but projects more as a penalty killer in the future. He does a great job in the faceoff circle and has an active stick when checking the power play point men. As a forechecker, he does all the right things and is able to create quick counter-attacks with his above-average playmaking.
This coming season it looks like Zlodeyev will begin the year in Russia’s version of the AHL. After showing well in the VHL last season, the 19-year-old should push for more minutes and potentially work his way into the top-six. It’s a good spot for Zlodeyev and there are many who believe that he will challenge for a KHL spot once injuries occur at the KHL level. During the preseason and some international tournaments, Zlodeyev is being used on the wing on occasion and shows that he can play all three forward positions.
When it comes to positional fit, Zlodeyev projects to be no more than a fourth-line centre but his defensive skill and ability to contribute a little bit of offence makes him the type of player who we would love to see make his way to the AHL and be a bottom-six call-up for the Canucks in a few years. Zlodeyev is highly committed to his craft and is rarely away from the rink for an extended period of time.
The stage is being set for him to have a similar performance as Arvid Costmar did last season where Canucks fans began to take notice of Costmar due to his rat-type playstyle and ability to add offence. We should expect to see similar things from Zlodeyev at the WJC. He will be used on the penalty kill a lot and Russia will likely trust him to be on the ice late in games to defend a lead. He may not be a rat like Costmar but he has a noticeable style of play and is excellent in the faceoff circle.
Zlodeyev needs to work on a few things to be considered a legit NHL prospect. He needs to get quicker off his first three steps and will have to work on his shot even more as he tries to become a regular scorer in the VHL. The most important thing that we need to see this season is for Zlodeyev to stay healthy. Last year, he had an eye injury, a long-term sickness and one other upper-body injury that kept him out of WJC consideration last season.
The kid plays hard but we need to see his body be able to match up to his effort level. Last season, his body wasn’t able to hold up so this year is big for him to stay healthy and play to the best of his abilities.
We will continue to follow Zlodeyev but the big showcase moment for the average fan to watch Z will be during his performance with Russia at the World Juniors.
That’s when he will be on the big stage and we will see if all his hard offseason training will pay off for him to represent his country well.
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