2020-21 Team: Dinamo-Molodechno
Date of Birth: April 23, 2003
Place of Birth: Kholstovo, Belarus
Ht: 5-foot-10 Wt: 176 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligibility
- Central Scouting-: 72nd (among EU skaters)
- Elite Prospects: 39th
- Dobber Prospects: 98th
- THW Barrachini’s Final 160 Rankings: 106th
Unfortunately, the list of rankings on which Dmitri Kuzmin appears… is a fairly short list. However, that is all the more reason why I believe the Belarussian defender could be one of the most undervalued prospects in the upcoming draft, with scouts overlooking the prospect due to his size.
Kuzmin was set to play in the OHL in his draft year after being drafted and signing an agreement with the Flint Firebirds. Unfortunately, the OHL never played this season, and the blueliner was forced to stay with the Belarussian farm team of Dinamo Minsk.
There is no denying how fun Kuzmin is to watch. If you’ve heard of the Belarussian defender before, it is likely because he scored a “lacrosse/Michigan” styled goal against Switzerland at the World Under-18s tournament. His skating ability and stick-handling are his greatest assets and make him an offensive threat.
Kuzmin has pretty good vision in the offensive zone and is able to generate plenty of dangerous shot attempts for himself and his teammates. He also found himself playing on the right side, as a left-handed shot, in the offensive zone. This disallowed him to use the boards to shield the puck, however, his creativity, stick-handling, and ability to walk the blue line made this a non-issue in his offensive play.
And defensively, Kuzmin does show promise. His vision often allows him to break up passes in the neutral zone and prevent offensive transitions for opponents. Although at select times he misreads plays, he often finds himself positioned well in the defensive zone.
However, there are some flaws with his defensive game. Kuzmin will be passive when opponents cross the red line with speed and allow easy offensive zone transitions in those situations. He struggles with gap control on transitions against as well. He occasionally shows flashes with his quick pivoting ability to interrupt zone transitions, but those instances always leave me wanting to see much more.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
These issues are especially highlighted because of Kuzmin’s lack of size and reach, being unable to make up for his deficiencies. Kuzmin also struggles with a high top speed, which harms his ability to pressure defenders on the larger ice surface in Europe. His lacking strength must be improved for him to be more effective at the professional level.
So, Kuzmin will be a fascinating case study as we approach the NHL Draft. His skills make him a quality prospect, however, with time we will see if his size and passiveness defensively can be outdone to make him an NHL talent.
Dmitri Kuzmin – 2021 NHL Draft Projection
Kuzmin is a decently high upside prospect, but his size makes him a longshot to become a quality NHL defenseman. Additionally, scouts will be hesitant to take a player who played in an obscure European league in their draft year. However, his success on the international stage will surely see him stand out more, and I could see him selected anywhere between the third and fifth round.
“His real value comes after he makes that initial play in transition to stop his opponents in their tracks as he turns play up ice. He is a skilled passer and an elusive skater. He protects the puck well for an undersized defender and he uses his frame to the most of his ability which is an encouraging sign. His puck skill is phenomenal and he will be a powerplay option at any level he plays at.” – Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects
“When it comes to goal scoring and non power play production, Kuzmin enjoys pinching up and being part of the offensive scheme down low. In fact, none of Kuzmin’s four goals (league play and international play) from this year came from the point. With that being said, Kuzmin will pinch up to create dangerous pass attempts and he will play the puck behind the net quite frequently.” – Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
- Offensive creativity
- Defensive positioning
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Gap control
- Top skating speed
As I’ve said, Kuzmin is a decent risk for an NHL team to take. If the Belarussian blueliner is able to make an NHL impact, which I believe he can, I think he becomes a potential second pairing defenseman with power-play quarterbacking ability.
Risk- 3.5/5, Reward- 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense- 8/10, Defense- 5/10