2023 FlamesNation prospect rankings: #13 Aydar Suniev

Photo credit:courtesy Penticton Vees
Jeff Middleton
10 months ago
The Calgary Flames came out of Nashville and the 2023 NHL Draft with a solid class of prospects. It wasn’t one of the best drafts for a team from a relative perspective, but given what they had to work with, I don’t think anyone thought it was a disappointment. One of the prospects that they added to the pool was Aydar Suniev, who debuts at 13th on our annual prospect rankings.
It’s clear that the front office had a certain archetype of player in mind when it came to their early forward choices with Samuel Honzek and Suniev, so let’s dig into why they liked Suniev so much and what he can bring to the Flames prospect pool.
Aydar Suniev
Left-handed winger
Born November 16, 2004 (18 years old) in Kazan, Russia
6’2″, 192 pounds
Drafted in the third round (80th overall) by Calgary in 2o23
Just like Arsenii Sergeev, who we profiled here, Suniev has had an interesting path to becoming a part of the Flames organization, albeit less interesting than Sergeev.
Suniev came to North America from Russia at the mere age of 14-years-old. In 2019-20 after entering the country, he started at the Triple-A level with the Yale Jr. Bulldogs, where he played 18 games and registered 22 goals, 17 assists, and 39 points total. He also played games for the U16 and U18 teams for The Hill Academy Prep, where he was over a point per game in the single-digit number of games that he played there.
In 2020-21, with the COVID pandemic taking the world by storm, Suniev returned to his home country of Russia. He didn’t play much, totaling only six total games–two with the CSKA Moskva U17 team and four with the CSKA Moskva U18 team in their respective leagues. He scored three points in the four games with the U18 squad and one point in the two games with the U17 group.
After Suniev returned to North America for 2020-21, he decided to play in the CAHS league, which for those that may not know, is Canadian High School hockey. There, he played 11 games for St. Andrews College and scored a total of 23 points (13 goals and 10 assists). But he also made appearances for two other teams as well, one of which he played more games for than he did for St. Andrews. In the GOJHL, Suniev played three games for the Thorold Blackhawks and played very, very well, scoring eight points in three games (five goals and three assists). But it was the Penticton Vees in the BCHL where Suniev truly made his mark, playing 17 games and scored a respectable 20 goals. For a 17-year-old, that’s not too shabby, and it would only get better from there.
The real breakout year, unsurprisingly, was Suniev’s draft year, where he made a statement playing with the Vees again. As of now, we’ve established that the kid can score goals, and he proved that theory correct again in 2022-23 In 50 games, he scored 45 goals. Never mind the assist total, which we will get to in a second, the kid was almost a goal per game with 50 regular-season games under his belt. No matter what league you’re playing in, that’s an impressive feat. But in overall points, he was just as impressive, totaling the same number of assists as he had goals for a grand total of 90 points in 50 games. In the playoffs, he was excellent as well with 9 goals, 14 assists, and 23 points in 15 games. There was no stopping him.
The best part of Suniev’s game is his shooting ability, and even though there are other things for him to work on, that part of his game won’t go away. He managed to score at high rates in all of the leagues he played in up to this point, and I don’t expect that to stop in the NCAA.
We reached out to friend of the site Derek Neumeier, of McKeen’s, for his thoughts on Suniev’s game:
Suniev had a monstrous 2022-23 season with Penticton, racking up big point totals at will. He’s strong on the puck and hard to strip, and once he can shake a defender and open up some space with his hands and reach he can do major offensive damage. He is especially lethal on the powerplay, with a hard, pinpoint shot and a lot of playmaking vision. While he can utilize a wide skating base to stay sturdy and balanced he does, however, run into a lot of problems when he actually needs to build speed and weave through traffic. Even carrying the puck in a straight line without losing momentum gives him trouble. In order to succeed at higher levels he will either need to clean up his ugly stride or bulk up and get tougher around the net-front.

Expectations for 2023-24

Speaking of the NCAA, what does Suniev’s future look like in his first year under the title of “Flames prospect?” He’s headed to play college hockey at the University of Massachusetts, which didn’t have the greatest 2022-23 season, ending with a 13-17-5 record and a conference record of 7-14-3. They did manage to beat some big names last season like the number one ranked Denver, Merrimack, Providence, and others, but when it came to games against the big Boston schools like Boston College and Boston University, they were clearly outmatched.
Despite that potentially unfortunate piece of news, there are still some things to like about the roster. Suniev will get the chance to play with some solid NHL prospects like Scott Morrow (Carolina Hurricanes), Ryan Ufko (Nashville Predators), and Kenny Connors (Los Angeles Kings), all of whom took the top three places in team scoring last season.
Taking a leap into NCAA hockey may leave Suniev a little bit hesitant at first. However, he’s going to be given a real shot at becoming an impact player on this UMass squad, and the expectations at this point are that he will take advantage of that. The scoring will come on its own, but if he can take the opportunities given to him and work from there as a first year, things should only go up.

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