From seventh rounder a year ago, to number seven on our annual top 20, Dmitry Zavgorodniy has been a fast riser through the Flames organization.
The pint-sized – 5’9″, 174 lbs – the Russian left winger can make a name for himself in the Flames organization as one of the rare right handed players with some offensive gifts. However, despite being touted for his offensive potential, he has yet to fully realize that during his time in North America.
How did we get here?
Zavgorodniy has been an exciting offensive prospect since his days in Russia, entering the scene by picking up 88 points in 36 U16 games at age 15, and doubled down on those stupefying numbers by putting up 46 in 21 the next season in the U17 league. He also got his first taste of serious hockey that season, picking up 12 points in 15 games for Omsk’s MHL team (Russia’s third league – kinda equivalent to the CHL).
Instead of continuing to climb the ladder in Russian hockey, Zavgorodniy decided to come overseas and try to crack hockey’s biggest league. After being selected eighth overall in the CHL import draft by the Rimouski Oceanic, he put together a strong draft season with 26 goals and 47 points in 62 games. That was enough to land in the top 100s for major scouting publications, but he slipped all the way to the 198th spot, where the Flames selected him.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
Zavgorodniy made a mild improvement on his numbers from his draft season.
Part of the reason his numbers aren’t so great is that he plays the same position as the best player on his team, Alexis Lafreniere, who also just so happens to be the best player in the league. The superstar in waiting has locked up top line and top power play minutes, leaving Zavgorodniy with slightly limited options to strut his offensive stuff.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Zavgorodniy does do a lot of good work with what he has to work with. He’s very strong at 5v5, picking up 22 5v5 primary points despite seeing a decrease in total 5v5 points (34). His special teams work isn’t too shabby either, picking up 22 points despite being bumped from PP1. He also found a niche on the penalty kill, picking up five shorthanded points, three of them being goals.
Zavgorodniy also made a minor appearance for Team Russia, facing off against his own league in the CHL-Russia Superseries. He picked up three points in two games, including the game tying goal in the deciding game and an assist on the game winner.
Those in the know
QMJHL reporter for the Halifax Chronicle Herald Willy Palov offers his thoughts about where Zavgorodniy needs to improve to become a full-fledged pro:
As a small player, it is important he improve his speed. He needs to show more of a separation gear to make it to the next level. If at all possible, more of a physical dimension would also help.
Ditto, Hockey Prospect’s QMJHL scout, Jerome Berube:
Consistency & strength are my two main concerns with him once he becomes a pro. He’s a skilled player but not a high end skills guy either, he’s not been a point per game player in the QMJHL in 2 seasons now. He’s not also a guy you can put lower in your lineup because he’s limited physically and not really a standout player defensively. It’s a big year coming up for him as Rimouski wants to contend for the QMJHL championship in which will be Lafreniere most likely last season in the league. They need him to be more consistency and be an impact player offensively all year long.
On the horizon
Although he has an ELC, Zavgorodniy is going back to the QMJHL, barring him having an absolutely perfect preseason (he’s not old enough yet for the AHL).
It’s not a make-or-break year career-wise for Zavgorodniy, as it was for current teammate and former Flames prospect D’Artagnan Joly. Zavgorodniy already has a contract in hand, so regardless of how next season goes, he’ll still get at least three years in a Flames uniform. At least that pressure is off his back.
Even though he has some job security already, you’d like to see Zavgorodniy take that next step in the QMJHL. He’s shown his potential at times but nothing that really screams that he has a future in the NHL. Maybe circumstance plays into his numbers, but not being convincing enough to play up the lineup isn’t a good sign. It’d be excellent if he could unlock the budding phenom he was in Russia, but I think we’d all settle for a very productive year.