Scouting Report: Dmitri Simashev

If you’re looking for defense in this draft, there’s no better option than Dmitri Simashev, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. He’s a monster defensively at every level, brings some spectacular skating, and though he might not be as dynamic offensively as some of the other top d-men in this draft, he’s always making good things happen for his team at both ends of the ice, even if the points don’t show it. He’s got some really promising play creation ability, and I believe that he could end up as a good #1 defenseman in the NHL, if everything goes right.

Simashev scored 1 goal and 10 points in 29 regular season games with Loko Yaroslavl in the MHL (Russian junior league) this year. As well as 2 goals, 6 points in 10 MHL playoff games, in Loko’s run to the semifinals. His production picked up towards the end of the year—for a while he was running on just a single assist—but nonetheless, the numbers are rather underwhelming considering the low level of competition in the MHL.

His superb defensive game also earned him 18 games with the KHL (Russian pro league) squad, where he went pointless, but put on an outstanding defensive performance against pro competition, which is quite an accomplishment.

Opinions on Simashev are all over the shop. He’s a big defenseman who’s struggled to score points this year; and for many it seems, that’s where the story ends. In this report, we’ll take a look at Simashev’s game, a few too many clips, and talk about why that shouldn’t be the case, as well as the reasons why he’s divisive as a prospect.

Player Profile

D.O.B. – February 4, 2005
Nationality – Russian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height – 6’4″
Weight – 201 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left

Simashev’s Style of Play


The offense tends to be the subject of conversation, especially among those who haven’t watched Simashev play. The numbers certainly don’t jump off the scoresheet, and his statistical profile doesn’t appear representative of an offensively skilled defenseman. But Simashev is one of the cases that I believe best exemplifies the notion that points should be taken lightly.

Simashev’s offensive game might not be as obviously potent or high-skill as some other top defensive prospects in this draft, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a load of untapped potential that I’d argue can stack up against any of them, in one way or another. Yes, he’s huge, and known primarily for his defensive proficiency; but he has an offensive toolkit that not many have, and it’s not ‘good for his size’, it’s just good.

His size certainly contributes to it though; adding total and masterful control of his enormous reach to get pucks out of danger on the backend, as well as creating a robust foundation of puck protection mechanics, which leads into his terrific puck control, and possession-oriented offensive game. All while being one of the best, most mobile skaters in the class. A deadly combination which is highly coveted by NHL teams, and should take him to the first round at the draft. The skating, the puck control, the puck protection / physical skills, are all bordering on an elite level.

He won’t always wow you with his hands—because he doesn’t need to—but he certainly has the ability. Although he generally keeps the handling to a minimum, his control over the puck and his reach is exceptional, and his hands are deceptively quick when they need to be, especially when it comes to moving the puck across his body to evade incoming pressure. In that vein, the fun part comes when he just completely undresses a guy out of nowhere without a moment’s notice, leaving jaws on the floor in the process. Isolated moments of pure brilliance, enveloped by simple and highly effective play in all areas; that’s the essence of Simashev’s game as it is now.

In the offensive zone, he processes play well, and possesses some great creativity and offensive instincts. Although he doesn’t always activate into the play when he could—which is something I’d like him to work on—he tends to do something special when he does, and he times his activations well; rarely getting caught too deep and behind the play. As well, he rarely hesitates to pounce on loose pucks, and he knows exactly what he wants to do once he’s got it.

He reads opposing breakouts very well, recognising their next move in order to pinch with perfect timing to cut it off when possible, while ensuring he’s not endangering his team in doing so. He does this frequently and to great effect to restore possession for his team. His awareness and recognition / processing of play are major strengths that contribute hugely to his high-impact overall game, both offensively and defensively.

If there’s one thing lacking in Simashev’s arsenal, it’s his shot; it’s not awful, but it’s certainly nothing to write home about. His release is fairly basic and not particularly quick, and the overall quality of his shot is a bit hit-or-miss. But frankly, I don’t really care; a great shot is a useful tool, but it’s not what I look for in a quality defenseman, what matters more is how they use it and how they play to their strengths.

And on that note, Simashev uses his shot quite well I’ve found. He doesn’t use it too frequently, but when he does, he often looks to aim for tips or other good shot-pass options—or at least ensures that there’s traffic in front—rather than taking lower-percentage looks with his underwhelming shot. That to me is more promising than a prospect with a great shot, who just shoots to score from the point without traffic all the time. That said, of course I still think he should work on improving his shot; if he can add that threat to his offensive repertoire, it could unlock a myriad of new opportunities for him.

For fun (and because I have too many clips that I wanna show), here are some of his better shots from afar:

His passing in transition and on breakouts is quite strong—as I’ll touch on later—but in the offensive zone, his passing game is a bit less impressive; especially on the power play. While there are moments of deceptive passing, in general, his offensive zone passes are somewhat predictable. He has a tendency to look directly at his target, and his passing motion is a bit drawn out, leaving too much room for opponents to react; something that will only become more prominent at higher levels of play.

I’m not too worried about this in general, as he makes up for it in his creativity; stepping down from the blue line and manufacturing plays in which this is a non-issue. But it’ll limit his offensive potential if he doesn’t address it, so it’s something for him to work on. And at the very least, this—and his lack of a real shot threat—brings into question his ability to quarterback a power play.

All that said, I wouldn’t worry about the lack of production one iota; all year I’ve seen him setting up teammates with golden opportunities left and right, that just seem to always find a way to not get to the back of the net. But I find it hard to believe that the failure to convert on those opportunities has anything to do with Simashev’s play, or that that information says anything other than positives about him as a player.

This shift I find to be a good example of Simashev’s overall offensive game as it is right now:

This is the sort of shift you’ll see decently often from him; not overly flashy, but just bringing a very positive impact to his team in all areas of the game. He retrieves the puck in his own zone and makes a nice move to get by the first forechecker, then hands his teammate the easy zone entry. He operates the point to facilitate the cycle, then recognises and attacks open ice to set up a teammate with a tap-in that just misses, which is—as previously stated—a bit of a trend among Simashev’s nice setups. As also seen in the next clip, where he performs a beautiful delay and fake pass to bait the defender and open space to centre the puck.

The truly exciting offense mostly comes out in flashes; flashes of high-skill moves to beat guys one-on-one, great fakes, really nice slip passes, impressive manoeuvres to get the puck to the middle of the ice, or just taking over a shift and dancing around the offensive zone. It’s all there; sometimes he just makes you stop and say “wow”, and ask yourself where all his points are. Here’s some of that cool stuff:

And my personal favourite:

Few players have the creativity, confidence, and awareness to think to make this move, let alone attempt and realise it. Moments like these really stand out, they may not be incredibly frequent, but they show up enough to get an image of what he could be. Whether or not he’s showcasing his offensive talent like that, you can see the processing speed that he has to recognise the play in front of him and the plays available to him. His offensive instincts and creativity are pretty high-end; I think he just needs to listen to them a bit more. I might like to see him take more risks, make some mistakes and find his limits for himself, rather than boxing himself into a safer playstyle.

When I first watched him earlier on in the season, I was really impressed, then saw that he had only one MHL point on the year, and I was convinced that I was looking at the wrong player’s profile. The main thing holding him back from reaching his true potential is just consistent regularity and refinement of these flashes; attacking more often when he has the opportunity, maybe taking some more risks, and just generally leaning more offensively sometimes. It might take some time, but I think he’s heading in that direction, which is what gives me so much optimism about his future.


Simashev is the best defensive player in this draft, full stop. His defensive game is more refined than any other in the class, and more so than most in any class, to be frank. And that plays a big role in him holding the top defenseman spot on my list at the time of writing. An already stellar defensive foundation is rare to find among 17–18 year old prospects, and it gives Simashev what I would consider to be the highest floor among defensemen in the draft, while boasting one of the highest ceilings in that group as well.

As long as Simashev is on the ice, you can sit back and relax, knowing that close to nothing is gonna get by him. His defensive game is very advanced for his age; he leads with his stick, extends his reach and establishes strong body positioning to angle attackers to the boards and minimise their options. He applies pressure to the puck with his stick first, and uses the blade and his body to block any attempt to get the puck to the middle of the ice, often cornering the attacker and forcing a turnover.

This way, he avoids taking himself out of the play or allowing a pass by him by attempting to play the body, as many big defenders tend to. His positioning is extremely solid, and unwavering; he so rarely overcommits and gets beat. It doesn’t matter how much skill or speed he’s facing up against, whatever tricks they may pull, attempting to capitalise on a speed differential, it hardly matters; it’s nearly impossible to beat him one-on-one. That’s incredibly impressive for a draft year player in the KHL.

When defending against the rush, he holds a strong gap and keeps himself well aligned to the puck-carrier. If the attacker sticks to the outside, he closes the gap by angling them towards the boards and usually kills the play just like that. If they try to cut to the middle, Simashev pushes off with his outside leg to close the gap and glues himself to the attacker, relentlessly hounding them with his stick, while utilising his strength and excellent skating to retain body positioning over them, eliminating nearly every option the attacker has, and typically knocking the puck away in the process.

If the incoming attacker doesn’t have much speed, Simashev will step up into the neutral zone to challenge them and knock the puck away. He does a very good job of preventing zone entries, while avoiding throwing himself out of position.

If he’s caught behind the opposing rush, he targets the puck-carrier and uses his lengthy powerful strides to catch up, and he’s usually successful. Once he catches them, he sticks to them and leads with his stick, keeps them to the outside, and when possible uses his strength to step in front and cut them off.

Where Simashev really shines—at least in the MHL—is defensive retrievals and breakouts. And I’m grouping these together for a reason, because oh man, he is magical when it comes to turning loose or contested pucks into breakouts for his team quickly.

He does a fantastic job of fending off and escaping pressure with control, and he brings a very strong defensive mind; he’s very smart with his approach to different situations, as seen in the previous clip. He times his cutbacks perfectly to shake off forecheckers on retrievals, then immediately turns to his forehand and skates up ice to look for an outlet play.

In the KHL, he can struggle at times especially under intense pressure on retrievals, and shows a bit less of his usual calm demeanour because he hasn’t fully adapted to the higher pace of play. But he’s already progressed a lot since the start of the year in terms of keeping up with KHL pace, and I doubt it remains an issue once he gets some more consistent KHL time. Regardless, he still plays a very strong overall defensive game against pro competition, which is quite an impressive feat.

Transitional Play

Simashev thrives in offensive transitions; combining smooth skating with his good hands and long reach, his outstanding puck control shines when rushing up ice, allowing him to weave around opponents in the neutral zone with relative ease. But he doesn’t lock himself into one solution in transition; he has strong problem-solving skills that enable him to navigate complex situations as they present themselves. This—combined with the aforementioned excellent skating and puck control—makes Simashev a truly dangerous option in transition. While skating up ice, he’s constantly scanning, reading the ice and the play in front of him very well on the fly, and adapting his decisions of carry / pass accordingly. When he sees an opening, he rarely passes up the opportunity to do it all himself, creating numerous beautiful solo rushes.

With the puck in transition, he generally likes to get to the middle in the neutral zone, in order to open up more avenues for the zone entry. If he’s on the rush and hands the puck off to a wing for the entry, he’ll typically continue his momentum and drive the middle through the offensive zone to draw the defenders back and create space, or be a passing option. Otherwise, when rushing the puck in himself, he doesn’t get angled to the outside too often; he’s fairly inside driven and tries to take the puck to the middle whenever possible, rather than trying to power his way around the outside.

His passes in transition are generally crisp and precise—although there is the occasional soft pass cross-ice, which probably won’t fly in the NHL—but timing is the real key to his passing game. On breakouts, he deceives opponents by delaying with the puck on his forehand, and the moment a lane opens up, he strikes precisely without hesitation. In general, I almost never see him try to force a pass if he doesn’t have a good option, and he tends to find the best option available to him. He has great awareness and sees passing lanes extremely well; he spots quality lanes the instant they appear, and capitalises on them more often than not. As well, he’s not afraid to use the boards to his advantage on outlet passes, and he’s quite accurate with them too.


Simashev’s size / skating combo is at the top of this draft; he’s a borderline elite skater; the word that comes to mind is ‘fluid’. He’s a really fluid, agile skater in all directions; he looks effortless on the ice, and brings great lateral mobility which lends itself to strong rush defense, and excellent separation ability. He’s very smooth in his movements, and has really strong mechanics / fundamentals: good first steps, exceptional balance, really great edgework, great with pivoting, changing speed, and shifting directions or transitioning between backward and forward motion.

Due to his size, he can appear less fast than he is, but you’d be surprised by how much ground he can cover quickly when he needs to. He uses long powerful strides to generate enough straight line speed to catch even some of the faster players if he’s caught behind the play. When he’s not skating in a straight line, his stride is more quick and short, and he instead uses crossovers to generate speed and create separation.


It’s difficult to find clear flaws in Simashev’s game; he’s already a very sound, solid player overall. In my mind, there’s no doubt that he’ll be a top-4 defenseman in the NHL, it’s just a question of how much more, and how far the offense will come. It’s more a game of projection and development rather than translatability with Simashev, which is what makes him a tricky one to evaluate, and the reason why some can look at him and declare him a pure defensive defender, and others like myself can look at him and claim he has some of the highest upside in the draft; it’s all especially subjective in cases like his.

Obviously, if you’re putting much weight on production, you won’t be as impressed with him as someone who’s more interested in the eye test, but ultimately it boils down to how you value and project different aspects in a player like defense, offensive flashes, physical tools and how they’re used, among others; things that can be all over the scale of value depending on the scout. Which is why someone like me might have him as high as 5 on my board at times, and others may have him outside of their first or even second round. Don’t get me wrong, I think he has no business going outside the first round, but barring a late-season surge in interest, it’s certainly possible. Regardless of when he goes, I can’t shake the feeling that he could be something special.

At the same time, I feel that there’s a decent chance that the team who picks Simashev is inclined to mould him into your typical physical shut-down defender with limited offense, and that’s a damn shame. There’s so much more beneath the surface with Simashev, and I would love to lean towards developing the offensive side of his game, because I think he has the potential to be one of the better overall defensemen in the NHL one day. Will he get there? Time will tell, but don’t count him out just yet.

In conclusion, I see Simashev developing into a solid #1 defenseman for many teams. He probably won’t put up mind-blowing offensive numbers, but I think he’ll still bring a very good offensive output for a defenseman, on top of a tremendous defensive game. That’s an incredibly valuable asset to have on your team, and worth a look in the top 10.

Latest Update

April 12, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Gray Matter. If you would like to follow Gray on Twitter, his handle is @grismatter.

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