59Dmitry Zavgorodniy
Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/CHL Images

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020: #7 Dmitry Zavgorodniy

Any readers packing absolutely elephantine memories will recall that the squat Russian forward Dmitry Zavgorodniy slotted at seventh on our prospect rankings last year too. But blame him not for the stasis.

An addition here and a breakout player there barred Zavgorodniy from grasping a higher rung on our ladder, yet he still posted a stellar and sparkling season while occupying the opposite flank from the underground underrated talent Alexis Lafrenière for the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL this past year.

How did we get here?

A mere 151 years after a certain shackled Russian novelist named Fyodor Dostoyevsky shuffled into a labour camp in Omsk for reading and distributing banned books, Zavgorodniy was born in the same city. He dominated in the Avangard Omsk (KHL) development program as a youth, tallying 88 points in 36 games on the U16 squad.

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Splitting time between the U18 team in Omsk and their MHL affiliate as a 16-year-old the next season, Zavgorodniy impressed again and earned a plane ticket to Rimouski—indirect flight, of course—to jumpstart his career in North America.

After his first season in Rimouski, the Calgary Flames drafted him in the seventh round, 198th overall in 2018.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

The 5’9″ 175-pound snarling wolverine of a winger steadily bloated his offensive numbers over three years in Rimouski, building from a bland to a blistering pace as he buffed his game. He scored 26 goals and 47 points in 62 games his first season, 28 goals and 64 points in 67 games the next.

But he geysered last year with torrents of production. Clicking with Lafrenière, Zavgorodniy notched 29 goals and 67 points in merely 40 games—though he finished 23rd in the QMJHL in total points, his 1.68 points per game nabbed him the fifth-highest scoring rate of the whole season.

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Another highlight for Zavgorodniy last fall was the 2019 Canada-Russia series, where he excelled in his native red sweater to lead his team in both goals and points at the tournament.

Like any undersized prospect, Zavgorodniy survives on his skill and smarts. He routinely patrols the offensive zone, whirs around from the crease to the high slot to the corner to the blue line in pursuit of openings. Some players park and plant themselves in positions, but Zavgorodniy moves because he truly sees the ice. Vision is unteachable.

Release, indeed. Highlights often depict right-shooting Zavgorodniy floating lofty wristers from a distance over goaltenders’ shoulders, arcing shots with a quick and whippy stick.

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And his snapshot is a pistol too—at least three distinct Tweets from the official Rimouski account last year celebrated his accuracy with the apposite adjective ‘chirurgical.’

But Zavgorodniy doubles as a slick scorer and a surprisingly feisty forechecker, it seems. Not unlike Andrew Mangiapane, he dissuades doubts about his size every time he seeps below the goal line to swarm defencemen, slug out battles and swat at pucks. Even in his second QMJHL season (when he wore #17 instead of #89), Zavgorodniy was playing bigger than he is by forcing (not causing, forcing) turnovers.

Out-muscling opponents can never be an overstated asset for smaller players. In rare moments where Zavgorodniy drifts towards the crease and freezes to mount a screen, he can still successfully jockey for position despite knocking shoulders with broader, taller men.

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Précision chirurgical!

Those in the know

HockeyProspect.com QMJHL scout Jerome Berube shared some thoughts with us about Zavgorodniy:

Zavgorodniy has a high hockey IQ and he’s a very good playmaker. He makes players around him better with that great hockey IQ. Size is a concern at the pro level and he’s also not a strong skater for his size. He’ll need to get stronger and continue to improve that speed to reach the NHL. In his first two seasons in the Q he was inconsistent, last year he was much more consistent but also missed about 2 months with his injury. I would have loved to see him play a full year on the Lafreniere line last year but miss time with that injury and also because of covid couldn’t see him in the playoff. He was one of the top players in the league before his injury and had a great showing at the Canada-Russia series in November.

On the horizon

Loaned to SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL for the apocalypse, Zavgorodniy has three assists in his first five legitimate professional hockey games.

Once North American teams eventually reenter the rinks, he will be transferring his newfound insights to the Flames AHL affiliate. Having signed an entry-level contract, the 20-year-old will be eager to prove himself capable of playing respectable minutes in an effective role as a puny player in a physical league. He boasts the brains, but he needs to flaunt the brawn—in attitude at the very least—to flourish at a professional level.

Précision chirurgical!

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FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020

The no-votes Missed the cut
#20: Tyler Parsons #19: Alexander Yelesin
#18: Ryan Francis #17: Martin Pospisil
#16: Luke Philp #15: Eetu Tuulola
#14: Johannes Kinnvall #13: Ilya Nikolayev
#12: Yan Kuznetsov #11: Adam Ruzicka
#10: Jeremie Poirier #9: Matthew Phillips
#8: Glenn Gawdin