Once you get into the late rounds of the draft, the chances you’re going to find an NHL player drops drastically. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible – plenty of notable players have come from the last picks – just that it’s very rare.
Considering the low likelihood of success, might as well dream big, right? That’s what the Flames appeared to have done when they chose Dmitry Zavgorodniy, a 5’9, 175 lb. Russian right-shooting left winger in the seventh round, 198th overall. There’s potential there, and with it, he comes in at #15 on our 2018 top 20 prospects list.
How did we get here?
Born in Omsk, Russia, Zavgorodniy got his start playing for his local youth team, Avangard Omsk. In 2015-16, his 15-year-old season, he played for their U16 club, scoring 43 goals and 88 points over 36 games: leading not just his own team in scoring by nine goals and 23 points, but being far and away the top scorer across the entire U16 league by the same amount.
As a 16-year-old, in 2016-17, he moved up to Omsk’s U17 club, scoring 19 goals and 46 points over 21 games. This time, however, he did not lead his team nor the league in scoring, probably because he also played 15 games for Omskie Yastreby in the MHL, Eurasia’s major junior league. There, he scored five goals and 12 points: a stronger league he couldn’t dominate quite so forcefully (probably in part because he was, you know, 16).
This brings us to Zavgorodniy’s 17-year-old season and NHL draft year, for which he moved halfway around the world to play in the CHL. The QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic selected him eighth overall in the CHL Import Draft (just two spots behind fellow 2018 Flames draft pick Milos Roman), and he rewarded them with 26 goals and 47 points over 62 games: good for fourth in team scoring (with two players older than him ahead of him in scoring, plus the 16-year-old Alexis Lafreniere leading the entire team). While Rimouski finished first in the East Division, they lost in the first round of the playoffs; Zavgorodniy scored one goal and three points over the seven-game series.
He also represented Russia at the U18 World Juniors, scoring one goal in five games; he had eight goals and 13 points over 16 U18 international junior competitions, tying him for third in Russian scoring.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
It isn’t just that Zavgorodniy is small: he’s young, too. With an Aug. 11 birthday, he’s still a couple of days away from turning 18, making him one of the youngest players chosen this past draft. Playing major junior hockey in Canada is a pretty big step up from the absurd number of points he was picking up in Russia – even in the goal-happy QMJHL – but that he’s been able to continue at a reasonable trajectory (dropping from .8 points per game in a limited MHL sample size to .76 in a full season in the Q) should be encouraging.
For a further look into Zavgorodniy’s QMJHL numbers, via prospect-stats, we can see that just under half of his total points were primary in nature and at 5v5.
|Games played||Points||Primary points||5v5 points||Primary 5v5 points|
For a deeper dive into Zavgorodniy’s numbers, revisit Christian Tiberi’s writeup on him here.
Those in the know
Ray Edwards, the Flames’ director of development, likes what he sees out of Zavgorodniy so far:
He’s starting to get acclimated into the culture, the language, and sort of the North American game. What we see in Zav is this guy is a competitor. He’s already got his body into a position where it’ll allow him to succeed. He was one of our top conditioned athletes in development camp, so we know he works hard so I think we need to get a little more specific with his training and I think once we do that, he’ll take some more step.
He also noted that Zavgorodniy plays at a mile-a-minute pace, and will need to work on slowing the game down some.
Willy Palov, the Chronicle Herald’s QMJHL writer, also spoke to Zavgorodniy’s strengths, and what he’ll have to work on:
Zavgorodniy is a small, skilled forward who skates well. He needed some time to transition to major junior hockey as a rookie in Rimouski last year but finished the season well. He wasn’t especially productive in the playoffs and will need to improve his overall game and strength to play at the pro level. Some of that will come with age and he will be in a prominent offensive role with the Oceanic this season. He is certainly a worthwhile gamble in the seventh round.
On the horizon
Zavgorodniy now has one year of North American hockey under his belt, and it was a productive one, if one that also hinted there’s plenty more room for improvement as well. But that’s only to be expected with a seventh round pick – and, well, that far into the draft, the Flames have certainly made worse bets than a tiny Russian kid with scoring flair.
He’s expected to be back with Rimouski for 2018-19, and considering his history playing for Russia internationally, with a chance of representing them in the World Juniors as well. As one of Rimouski’s top scorers this past season, he should be in a position to be a key contributor once again, but hopefully this time stronger results: more points, less reliant on the powerplay, and continued growth he should be able to apply as he hopefully continues on to higher level leagues.
It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses, as this will be the first time Zavgorodniy stays in the same league from one year to the next.
|#20 – Martin Pospisil||#19 – Demetrios Koumontzis|
|#18 – Emilio Pettersen||#17 – Filip Sveningsson|
|#16 – Milos Roman|