Dmitriy Simashev, Alexander Rykov, Aidar Suniev – in the 2023 NHL Draft. Teams were not only after Matvei Michkov.
It’s no secret that the highest pick of this year’s NHL Draft was expected to go to the ultra-talented Matvey Michkov. However, the reality was somewhat different: Michkov was picked seventh, but the Arizona Coyotes sensationally spent their sixth pick on Russian defenseman Dmitry Simashev, representing Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. On top of all that, we should note a few other unexpected picks by our players. North American left winger Aidar Suniev went to the Calgary Flames at No. 80, while right winger Alexander Rykov (Polar Bears/Tractor) went to the Carolina Hurricanes at No. 100.
Who is Dmitriy Simashev, ahead of Matvey Michkov himself? One of the best defenders in the draft, with a contract with Lokomotiv through the end of the 2024/25 season.
Simashev plays in the Lokomotiv system. He has played 18 games this season against adult players in Russia’s top league, the KHL. He has also played 33 games in the Russian youth league, the MHL. Simashev scored one goal and made 11 assists for a league-high 12 points. He also scored two goals and four assists for six points in 10 playoff games.
Simashev played 46 games in the MHL in the 2021/22 season. He scored five goals and made 11 assists for 16 points. Simashev also added one assist in two playoff games. The defenseman represented Russia at the European Youth Games in 2022. Playing in four games for Russia, he helped the team win a bronze medal. Unfortunately, Russia’s ban from international tournaments prevented him from participating in other tournaments and showing his skills for the national team. Simashev is a left guard with a right grip, his height is 193 cm and his weight is 90 kg. He was born on February 4, 2005 in the Russian city of Kostroma.
Simashev combines high skating ability. He has a long and powerful stride. This helps him develop excellent speed and acceleration in both directions. His turns are crisp and he moves quickly from offense to defense and vice versa.
Nevertheless, there are some areas of his offensive game that show flashes of potential. His superior skating allows the defender to join the offense or be at the blue line while scoring on defense. His lateral movement allows him to move around the line and thus open up the line for his team to pass and shoot.
Simashev’s biggest problem, however, is his handling of the puck. He lacks the confidence to get the puck out of his own zone or create a burst in the offensive zone. When he gets the puck, he often tries to get rid of it very quickly, looking for an exit pass on the breakout or passing the puck to a teammate in a safe spot in the offensive zone. As he develops his confidence and skill with the puck, Dmitri can really take his offensive game to the next level.
Simashev has very good defensive skills, especially for his age. He uses his long stick, excellent skating and his physicality to, as they say in the NHL, “consume the ice. His ability to push forwards out of his zone and use his size and strength to take up one-on-one battles in the corners and on the backboard could eventually become elite.
In the NHL, he can be an exciting space defenseman who is used against opposing main links and is a great complement to the puck-moving defenseman, the puckmover. His play is reminiscent of Ryan Lindgren’s. However, this is only a stylistic comparison so far, not a comparison based on skill and ability.
Aydar Suniev, for his part, will go to the Calgary Flames. Aidar managed 45 goals and 45 assists for 90 points in 50 BCGL games. He absolutely dominated the score sheet, which is to be expected from a promising BCHL player.
Suniev has a really good shot, and he knows how to get open to get on the free ice and create a goal scoring threat away from the puck. Not only that, he’s surprisingly good with the puck, which allows him to create space for himself. He also has great motor skills, which help him be a real pain for opposing defenders.
The modern forward Suniev needs to improve his skating and play to make his way to the NHL. He is a power forward for the Bottom 6, that is, for the lower ranks of NHL teams.
Alexander Rykov, on the other hand, was selected by Carolina. Rykov had an interesting season, playing between three Russian leagues this year and playing only 29 games. The 6-foot-6, 76-pound winger played three games in the MHL (two points), six games in the KHL (no points) and 20 games in the WHL (11 points). It’s hard to work when you’re constantly changing teams and leagues. He still showed clear offensive zone awareness, good court vision and decent defensive playmaking ability.
Motor and defensive play are the Russian forward’s strengths, but again, he has a lot to learn in those areas as well. Overall, he’s a solid player, but he’s not one to stand out much on the ice. He could be a solid, well-balanced winger in the future.