The strength of the Edmonton Oilers prospect pool is undoubtedly on the back end. With Evan Bouchard, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and William Lagesson already playing in the AHL, the Oilers appear to be set up well for the future. However, Dmitri Samorukov might have a higher ceiling than all of them.
Dmitri Samorukov, the Edmonton Oilers prospect, who plays on the blue line for the Guelph Storm and played for Russia at the World Junior Championship. Boy, is he ever playing well. He looks to me like a player. He’s one of the top defencemen in the OHL, and I just think he’s a real force at both ends of the ice.
Bob McKenzie (TSN Hockey Bobcast – Mar. 23)
Samorukov’s Junior Hockey Journey
Born and raised in Volgograd, Russia, Samorukov played his youth hockey with CSKA Moskva. After putting up five goals and 22 points in 28 games with the CSKA under-16 team in 2014-15, Samorukov represented Russia at the 2015 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, where he won a silver medal. The following season, he had four goals and 16 points in 28 games in the under-17 league.
Samorukov made the Russian squad at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championship, but suffered a disappointing defeat in the quarterfinal. That summer, he was selected by the Guelph Storm with the second-overall pick in the 2016 CHL Import Draft. Samorukov went on to put up four goals and 20 points in 67 games as an OHL rookie in 2016-17.
The then-17-year-old steadily improved his two-way game throughout the season despite playing on one of the weaker teams in the league. After a disappointing result the previous year, Samorukov represented Russia again at the 2017 IIHF World U18 Championship and took home a bronze medal.
Samorukov was selected by the Oilers in the third round (84th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. After playing for the Oilers Rookies in the 2017 Young Stars Classic, Samorukov returned to Guelph. He tallied 11 goals and 34 points in 62 games in 2017-18, but the Storm finished last in their division for the second consecutive season. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound defender was named to Team Russia in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, although they failed to win a medal at the event for the first time since 2010.
Samorukov took a massive step forward in his final OHL season and became the Storm’s No. 1 defender after Ryan Merkley was traded to the Peterborough Petes. The 19-year-old Russian had 10 goals, 45 points and a plus-36 rating in 59 games in 2018-19 and was named to the OHL Third All-Star Team. He also played for Team Russia in the 2018 CIBC Canada-Russia Series and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he won a bronze medal.
Samorukov was arguably the best defenceman in the OHL in the season’s second half, but he saved his strongest performances for the playoffs. The Oilers prospect finished fifth in the league in playoff assists (18) and tied for fifth in playoff points (28) in 24 games en route to winning the 2019 J. Ross Robertson Cup. He wasn’t quite as impressive in the Memorial Cup as Guelph was eliminated in the semifinal, but his final junior season was still a major positive for the Oilers organization.
The Road Ahead
With new general manager Ken Holland at the helm, Oilers fans should expect to see Edmonton follow the Detroit Red Wings model when it comes to developing their prospects. So, Samorukov will almost surely spend at least one full season with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL before making his Oilers debut.
Samorukov had a taste of what it’s like to play in the AHL in 2017-18 after completing his season with the Storm. The former third-round pick had no goals and two assists in five games with the Condors. I think Samorukov will probably start on the third pairing with Logan Day in Bakersfield in 2019-20, but he won’t be there long. Gone are the days of veteran minor-league players taking all the cherry minutes away from legitimate NHL prospects, like Samorukov.
Samorukov owns a quality point shot, can make crisp passes on the tape to start an offensive rush, skates well and delivers hard hits. It was a treat watching him play against fellow Oilers prospect Bouchard and the London Knights in the OHL Playoffs this spring. They were clearly the best two defenders in the series, and likely in the entire playoffs, which made it easy to envision them playing together in Edmonton one day.
However, it’s not a race. When Samorukov is ready for prime time, there will be a spot on the team for him.
Eric Friesen is a freelance sports broadcaster and journalist in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Eric has diplomas in Broadcasting from Mount Royal University in Calgary and Sports Journalism from Centennial College in Toronto. A lifelong hockey fan, Eric has followed the Edmonton Oilers for more than 20 years. He cheers for the Oilers because of his hockey hero Wayne Gretzky, who played his more productive seasons in Oil Country.