Defensively minded blueliner with a great combination of size and mobility. Will need to develop more creativity with the puck on his stick but has proven to be a reliable defender.
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June 2023 – Simashev has been selected 6th overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2023 NHL Draft. Curtis Rines
April 2023 – A large, smooth-skating, two-way defenseman with intriguing upside. Strong skating, puckhandling, and puck distribution skills make him very effective in transition. Similarly, his anticipation of opposing neutral zone plays combined with his long reach and strong positioning makes him very effective in denying zone entries, particularly controlled entries. His defensive impact on the cycle is admittedly less impressive, but he is still strong in his own zone, and he is particularly good at finding ways to get the puck out with control. He is arguably the best defender in the draft. His offense relies too much on perimeter plays and he has shown hesitance in shooting the puck that could limit his offensive upside, but he has also shown enough in terms of puck distribution skills and off-puck positioning that one could see a world where he regularly produces points at the NHL level. Graham Montgomery
December 2022 – Every year, there are a few prospects who experience the double-edged sword of being good enough to play in their country’s top professional league but not good enough to earn the ice time required to showcase their whole skillset consistently. One of those players in the 2023 draft is Lokomotiv Yaroslavl defenseman Dmitri Simashev. Simashev was one of the first draft-eligible players to make the KHL this season, and he did it by cracking a spot as the seventh defenseman on one of the KHL’s best teams. To date, Simashev has spent most of his draft season in the KHL but more recently has gone back to junior, playing in the MHL for an extended period.
It is no fluke that Simashev earned a spot with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to start the season. He is a huge defenseman at 6-4 and around 200 pounds who skates quite well for his size and plays a very calm and composed game. Early in the KHL season, it didn’t look like Simashev belonged. He looked like a player who was afraid one wrong move would send him down to junior hockey, as he always made the simplest play and almost never carried the puck up the ice. At times, Simashev looked like a slow skater, but he was just really slow to process as the game was too fast for him. But things got better, and as the season went along, Simashev’s game started to develop and blossom. Simashev started to get comfortable, and it looked like the KHL pace was starting to slow down for him as he started to make quicker reads, take chances, and become more involved both offensively and defensively. I started to see how good his skating was for a player of his size at his age and how agile he could be. Simply put, he has improved steadily as the season has gone on and is now looking like a player who belongs at Russia’s top level.
Simashev’s game, so far, is centered around being a very strong and dependable defender. He plays a very safe game, but he’s very effective. Simashev’s defensive prowess comes from reading the play effectively and using his big, athletic frame to shut down puck carriers. Due to his size, mobility, and reach, Simashev has an advantage in the transition game defending oncoming rushes. He can stay closer to the center of the ice, which eliminates the highly desired lanes opposing forwards want to take to generate a scoring chance. This ends up forcing players to dump the puck in or to go around the outside to try and get by him. Simashev reads, reacts, and uses his mobility and reach to cut off outside lanes and angle the player into the boards. He uses his strength and physicality to separate the player from the puck and kill the play. Simashev doesn’t just defend the rush well, he’s also effective along the boards and behind his net. There were several times when shifty forwards would try to shake away from him behind the net with quick turns and changing directions, but Simashev was able to stay with them even after two or three attempts by the player to turn Simashev around. Simashev is able to do this not just because he’s surprisingly mobile and has a large frame but because his compete level and pursuit are excellent. He makes a concerted effort to ensure his man does not beat him and get a clean path to the front of the net. His compete level also shows up along the boards when he physically engages with players. Simashev will chip away at players along the boards with subtle cross-checks, slashes, and effective shoulder checks before stepping into them and pinning them against the boards and separating them from the puck. Additionally, he has the awareness to grab the puck and look for a teammate to pass the puck to after making the takeaway. He is already a capable defender in the KHL, which should go a long way in projecting Simashev to the NHL.
Despite the many gifts Simashev has, there is a noticeable deficiency in his game. Through 28 games at both the KHL and MHL levels, Simashev has just one assist. Part of the lack of production is due to his usage in the KHL. Over half of his games this season have been in the KHL where he is consistently the seventh defenseman who plays less than 10 minutes per game. Still, Simashev has played 12 MHL games and has managed to find the score sheet only once. Even as a defensive defenseman, it is expected that a player with his size and skill would produce in that league. To complicate matters more, Simashev also plays on the second powerplay unit for Loko in the MHL but hasn’t been overly effective on it. He can walk the line and stick handle around the offensive zone but lacks much of an offensive plan, and his pass hasn’t been as accurate as expected. At even strength, Simashev does show some traits which make one think the offensive production will come. His shot seems to find a way to get through, and it also has some zip to it. He is able to transition the puck up the ice very effectively with long stretch passes, and he occasionally uses his skating to get up the ice (more so at the junior level), which shows he’s capable of starting some offense. At this stage, offense is not his calling card to the NHL, but he’s got more offense in him than the worrying point total would suggest.
Overall, Simashev should project quite favorably to the NHL. Players who have the defensive instincts he does, in addition to the combination of size, movement, and competitiveness he possesses, usually find a place in the NHL. These players usually make a living playing the hard minutes at even strength and being reliable on the penalty kill. If he can continue to improve his skating and become a not just good but great skater for his size, then he could be a really difficult shutdown player on the back end. Simashev’s high floor and projectable package of attributes make him a player who could potentially be selected in the first round. How early he is selected will depend on how much he can improve his offensive game or how much offense a team thinks they can extract from him through proper development. Jordan Harris
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