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The Winnipeg Jets Select Dmitri Kuzmin 82nd Overall

Winnipeg drafts it’s first Belarusian player!

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets have used one of their last picks in the first 4 rounds on Belarusian defenseman Dmitri Kuzmin. This one was definitely not someone I knew much of anything about, but after doing some digging, the Dinamo-Molodechno defender looks to be a very intriguing homerun-style pick. If you want a very detailed breakdown of what Kuzmin brings (and what he doesn’t), check out Will Scouching’s Youtube report. Want the summary in brief? Here goes...

Kuzmin’s a smaller, highly-skilled puck-mover who doesn’t have an insane top gear. His first step is decently explosive and he’s good at navigating open ice, but he’s unlikely to blow by defenders on his edges. Where he starts to separate himself from the pack is in his impressive stickhandling, vision, and distribution. Kuzmin’s very active in attacking passing lanes and setting up his teammates for quality scoring opportunities. As a lefty, he’s also very comfortable operating on the right side and keeping the puck closer to the walls. If he continues to add explosiveness and speed to his skating, he could be a very effective transition defender.

The lack of speed isn’t the only issue in Kuzmin’s skating. He does have some agility and directional issues, insofar as he can turn quickly but struggles to chase after puck carriers. If he mistimes his read, it’s likely the forward will have a quality route towards the net. Often times, Kuzmin was aggressive in the right way and pressure the passing lane to force a turnover higher up the ice. In his own defensive zone, however, things could be a bit messier. Kuzmin could also work on some of his defensive marking and effort, especially in closing down gaps with puck carriers. Given his smaller stature, he needs to be comfortable filling the space that he can and make good use of his stick. The young defender is a longshot, but for a third round pick, his potential is very high.