The Flames may have saved their most intriguing pick for last at the 2018 NHL draft.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy (alternatively: Dmitri Zavgorodny) is a 5’9″, 174-pound right-shooting left winger out of the QMJHL originally hailing from Russia. Drafting a short guy isn’t necessarily a Flames oddity, but the final two categories are out of their general drafting profile. For pretty much all of those reasons, Zavgorodniy tumbled down the draft (four of five scouting services ranked him in the top 100, and three in the top 90) right into the Flames’ hands at pick 198.
So we know why Zavgorodniy slipped. But what are the reasons scouts looked upon him so favourably?
Numbers and such
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Overall, Zavgorodniy had a pretty successful season, despite having some tough stretches without picking up points. He scored a lot of primary points, only tallying eight secondary assists this past season. A fair bulk of his points did come from special teams time, as he scored nine powerplay goals and seven assists (four primary). Zavgorodniy also saw PK time, where he picked up three shorthanded goals.
A lot of the more consistent and bountiful periods of production correlate to times Zavgorodniy was playing centre. He seemed more comfortable in that role, but got pushed around by Rimouski for reasons unknown (Sam Dove-McFalls, of 2017 development camp fame, was a converted centre. The next best listed centre had 35 points). Given that he’s a right shot who can play centre and left wing, they were likely trying him everywhere to see where he could be most useful. He had some strong success as a winger, as the last few games of the season demonstrate.
Another reason his production dipped is because he saw less ice time as the season went on. CanucksArmy’s draft profile of Zavgorodniy noted that his 5v5 ice time saw a significant dip around game 30, likely due to his lack of production. Although he never got the same amount of ice time he got earlier in the season, Zavgorodniy’s estimated points per 60 skyrocketed during the latter half of the season, clocking in at around four primary points/60 despite getting around eight minutes of 5v5 ice time. Among first time eligible QMJHLers, he finished eighth in estimated p/60 and p1/60.
Internationally, Zavgorodniy finished first in scoring at last season’s Hlinka tournament. In other international play, he picked up 12 points in 11 games with the Russia U18 team, but only one point in five games at the U18 WJC.
Zavgorodniy’s comparables don’t lend him a favourable light. Similar all situations producers in their draft year only made the NHL around 7% of the time, and that number dips to 4.5% for similar 5v5 scorers. For players with both similar 5v5 and AS production, only 7% reached 200 NHL games.
That’s a general knock on QMJHL prospects: for reasons fair or unfair, they just don’t make the NHL as often as players from the OHL or WHL. However, the flip side is that many of those who do make it tend to score a lot of points. Similar AS producers tend to score at a 0.56 point per game clip (46 points over 82 games), while at 5v5 score around 0.41 (33 points), and players in both categories hit 0.67 points per game (55 points). If Zavgorodniy makes the league, he’s likely to be a top six winger. That’s what you want in the seventh round: a player who may be far, but has high upside.
There’s even more reason for optimism. As explained above, those numbers may not accurately reflect Zavgorodniy given the general wackiness of his season. He’s a European import who got shifted around the forward corps and saw his ice time cut halfway through the year. Those aren’t favourable circumstances for a player, and it impacts his comparables.
CanucksArmy’s PGPS system produces similar numbers, giving him an expected success rate of 7.8% with a projected 43 points per season (0.52 PPG).
Zavgorodniy is what you want in an ideal seventh round pick: a kid with scoring ability and room to grow. He’s a young birthday, not even 18 yet (Aug. 11), and has only had one year of experience on North American ice. If there’s a player who can provide great value in the seventh round, Zavgorodniy is it.
He should have a strong year of growth next season. Zavgorodniy’s numbers will see a large boost next year, which should be mostly opportunity related. Partially because of ice time, but he might also have the opportunity to play with burgeoning superstar Alexis Lafreniere (80 points in 60 games as a 15-year-old). Zavgorodniy appears to be much better as a centre than a winger, so if Rimouski tries him in that spot, it could be dynamite. If that doesn’t happen, both him and Lafreniere both play left wing, so he’ll be buried down the rotation again. Perhaps they try him at RW, but maybe centre would be his best spot.
In general, there’s a lot to like about Zavgorodniy. He’s one to keep an eye on next year.