2020-21 Team: Windsor Spitfires
Date of Birth: March 2, 2003
Place of Birth: St. Petersburg, Russia
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 198 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
There are many point-producing defensemen in this draft, who will likely be selected early. Or will they? The NHL is a fast-moving, creative game. The players are bigger and faster than in the past. So, why would a team pick a player who is the opposite of that? Defense wins championships and that’s why teams should strongly consider Daniil Sobolev.
Related: THW’s 2021 Draft Guide
Sobolev is among the “other” blueliners in this draft. The players who sacrifice their bodies to make plays, who play physically to protect their goalie, and most of all, push the play forward with their puck-moving skills to their forwards rushing up the ice. This is what you will get with Sobolev. He is not flashy but does get the job done.
Sobolev has a well-rounded game but nothing is elite. He skates well, plays a physical game, and he will go out of his way to protect his teammates. He has a defense-first mentality, including blocking shots, cutting down the gaps of opposing forwards, and will not hesitate to play those hard minutes to get a win.
Sobolev is a smaller defenseman at 6-foot-0 and 198 pounds. He is built like a tank and hits like a truck but is small by today’s NHL standards. He makes up for his lack of offense by controlling the play from the defensive end. While he does have enough potential to make it to the NHL and have a long career, there are some things he needs to work on.
Sobolev is easily moved off the puck in the defensive zone. That could be fixed over the summer and at prospect camps. He sometimes concentrates on the big hit, and that takes him out of position and leaves his team vulnerable. Although he has a very solid, thick build, he needs to get stronger, especially on the puck. Again, this could be improved over the summer. He also looses his fair share of puck battles.
He’s taken a different path than others. After being targeted by the OHL Windsor Spitfires for close to two years, they finally pulled the trigger. Windsor made him the 40th overall selection in the 2020 CHL Import Draft. He was ready to make his OHL debut this season, but it was cancelled due to COVID. He continued to put in the work in preparation for the NHL Draft and the 2021-22 season with Windsor. The Spitfires acquired his services after their two imports, defenseman Ruben Rafkin and goaltender Kari Piiroinen, left the team in early March to play pro in their native Finland.
During the 2019-20 season, Sobolev recorded two goals and six points, was a minus-1 and had 47 penalty minutes in 48 games for MHK Spartak Moskva of the MHL, a junior league based in Russia.
Daniil Sobolev -NHL Draft Projection
He is projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. However, he could move up in the draft via trade by a team that has multiple early picks. He projects to be a second-pairing defenseman in the NHL. He will not dominate a game regardless of where he goes, but he will be a rock in the defensive zone, clearing the crease and putting his physicality to work on the opposition. He plays the game like a less offensive Scott Stevens or Darius Kasparaitis.
“We were excited when we drafted Daniil and now we are ecstatic to announce his signing. He will be an immediate fan favourite with this two-way play. He is an NHL prospect and with that type of ability, is an addition that bolsters our roster immediately” – Windsor Spitfire General Manager Bill Bowler
“An aggressive defender, Sobolev was a noticeable presence on the MHL last year despite his young age. His aggression can lead to some real chances for this club, but too often leads to chances against. A lot of his game seems like it is on the verge of taking a big leap forward, but it just hasn’t yet- for example, his skating mechanics will click one shift, but be a little wonky the next. It is a similar story with his stick skills, though I think his passing ability is pretty good already” – Ross Martin
“Daniil Sobolev is a RHD with a good shot and puck skills, physically strong and solid at his own end too. Maybe recently he wasn’t considered among the top talent tier, but still was a regular on the U17 Team Russia, not to mention that a year earlier he was invited even to a 2002 born team” – Viktor Famich
- Good defensively
- Good hockey sense and composure
- Puck Mover
- Excellent Vision
- Easily moved off puck
- Defensive positioning
- Needs to get stronger
- Loses many puck battles
Sobolev has the skills to be a top-tier defenseman on any team in the NHL. That success will come after he is drafted and with hard work. Sobolev has the ability to fit on any defensive pairing and he can play the penalty kill and on the power play. He has a great outlet pass that comes in handy when you have talent flying up the ice. He does have offensive production, but that takes a back seat to his defensive skills. He will be a regular in the NHL, but do not expect a Norris Trophy with his name on it.
- 2017-18 Russia U16 Champion
I am 43 years old from Fostoria, Ohio. Aside from my beautiful wife and 2 amazing dogs Hockey is my love. Will watch any type of hockey, regardless of league or team. Currently covering the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.