The New Jersey Devils just announced they have signed Russian defenseman Yaroslav Dyblenko to a two-way, two-year deal. The native of Surgut, Russia, spent the latest two seasons with Spartak Moscow of the KHL.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 20, 2017
According to his agent Gary Greenstein during a brief interview with TASS, Dyblenko received a qualifying offer from his former team Spartak Moscow (that will retain his KHL rights), but at the same time he also received a “serious offer from an NHL team”, that was then revealed to be the Devils. Dyblenko, 23, had a strong season with Spartak Moscow, collecting four goals and eleven points, finishing minus-6, a stat that shouldn’t be overrated considering that only three full-time players were positive and the best player, former Calgary Flames draftee Viktor Bobrov, was plus-2. The team didn’t reach the playoffs. Dyblenko served as an alternate captain this year. He was most often iced on the team’s first line with former NHL veteran Dmitri Kalinin and averaged more than 17 minutes a night. Most recently, he skated with Team Russia at the Eurochallenge games against Team France, but he was then cut.
A Change Coming for Yaroslav Dyblenko
In his KHL career, Dyblenko scored 39 points in 180 regular season games.
“It’s a new stage in my career, I will need to show once again what I’m worth”, Dyblenko told R-Sport. “There’s nothing to be scared about. If you’re scared, you shouldn’t go to the forest, as the saying goes. I’m 23 already, and the chance to play in the NHL is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. [The Devils] scouted me and offered me a contract pretty much right away, without many negotiations. I talked with my agent and we discussed everything, and we decided that it would be the best thing to go [overseas].”
So, what the Devils will get? Dyblenko is a defensive defenseman with a good size (6’1″, 207 lbs., according to his profile on the KHL official website), who likes to throw the body around and make some big hits. Sometimes, however, his positioning is not the best, but in North America, he will have less space to deal with, and it may help his game. Moreover, he is a mobile player, and that can only be to his advantage in his initial adaptation to the North American game. While he has a good physical game, the Russian defenseman will need to improve his positioning. Most likely, Dyblenko will start his new venture playing for the Devils AHL affiliates, the Albany Devils.
Dreaming of the NHL
“I understand that I signed a two-way contract,” Dyblenko went on. “I will need to work very hard to get to play [in the league]. But it isn’t easy for anyone, whether a rookie or a star. Any young player dreams about the NHL, where all the best players are, and I am amongst them. I don’t know anyone in the team. There was Sergei Kalinin, but then he was traded to another team. Too bad, it would have been easier with another Russian guy in the team.”
Before joining Spartak, Dyblenko played for Atlant Mytischi, where he played with Toronto Maple Leafs Nikita Soshnikov. He represented Team Russia in a number of occasions, with the most notable action at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, where he helped the team to conquer a bronze medal. At Spartak Moscow, his head coach was the former NHL veteran of 624 games German Titov and his GM was former Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks forward Alexei Zhamnov.
Devils fan will be happy to see live some of these bone-crushing hits, the defenseman is still young, and while he’s still a longshot at making the NHL, the Devils may have spotted another good player with a good risk-reward ratio.