The depth of the Detroit Red Wings prospect pool has already been tested so far this season due to a bounty of injuries, but this depth spans far beyond the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye. Players from the Griffins and Walleye are those that are called up when vacancies on the roster emerge, but what about all the prospects in other leagues? Well, one such prospect has been making waves across the ocean in Russia between three leagues. Dmitri Buchelnikov has been bouncing between the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the Supreme Hockey League (VHL), and the Junior Hockey League (MHL) and has seen some success in each.
Buchelnikov is a 19-year-old Russian winger who was drafted by the Red Wings 52nd overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. This was his second go-around after he went undrafted back in 2021. He’s an offense-driven player who has a keen shooting ability and explosive speed. It’s his pure skill that makes him such a remarkable pickup and find by Detroit’s scouting staff. When he is in possession of the puck he works magic with his hands, somewhat reminiscent of Red Wings legend and fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk.
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As you look at Buchelnikov’s highlights, you can clearly see that he’s goal-driven and is a flashy player on the ice. His greatest strength is probably his shot and he has a wicked release that warrants him being called a sniper. Aside from his shot itself, he can weave and dance through the opposing defense with ease and it’s almost mesmerizing to watch.
Buchelnikov’s Playing Career
Before making the jump up to the KHL, Buchelnikov’s career outside of Russian junior hockey was all in the MHL with SKA-Varyagi St. Petersburg and SKA-1946 St. Petersburg. Over the course of two MHL seasons, he tallied 57 goals and 55 assists through 102 games. The 2021-22 season was his best yet with 75 regular season points (41 goals and 34 assists) and 14 playoff points (nine goals and five assists). Last season, he came in second in the MHL for both goals and points, not too shabby!
Buchelnikov represented Russia at the 2021 World Junior Championship which was his first WJC appearance. Throughout seven games, he tallied one goal and two assists but Russia fell flat in the tournament and finished last in their group. If the International Ice Hockey Federation had not banned Russian teams from competing, I’d imagine that he would have played in the 2022 WJC this past August.
Buchelnikov is still within the SKA St. Petersburg hockey club but is now playing primarily between the KHL and VHL. He has 20 games under his belt thus far with 10 being in the KHL, eight in the VHL, and the other two in the MHL where he started off the season. It’s still very early, but he has scored 11 goals (one of which was his first KHL goal) alongside 10 assists for a combined 21 points.
Future With the Red Wings
Leading up to the 2022 NHL Draft there was some uncertainty surrounding Russian players and if it was a good time to be drafting them. However, that did not defer the Red Wings scouting from Buchelnikov as his talent outweighs the potential risk. There were 23 Russians drafted this past year with only eight coming in the first three rounds and he was the 5th highest pick out of the lot. Fun fact: the Red Wings had not drafted a Russian since the 2019 NHL Draft until selecting Buchelnikov in 2022!
The Red Wings currently have 11 left wingers in the system including Carter Mazur, Taro Hirose, Maximilian Kilpinen, and Kirill Tyutyayev. As of right now, Buchelnikov is sitting comfortably in first place amongst all Red Wings forward prospects with 21 points – just in front of Amadeus Lombardi who has 20 (as of Nov. 12). He’s proven to be a great addition to the depth chart thus far and will hopefully keep his success rolling throughout the rest of the 2022-23 season.
It will likely be a bit until Buchelnikov is ready to hit the ice in the NHL but that doesn’t mean that he’s not making incredible progress thus far. The offensive side of his game is remarkable but the defensive end is in need of some improvements. Specifically, creating turnovers or puck retrieval in the defensive zone are two areas of his game that need strengthening. Playing at a higher level will give him a chance to learn from the pros and hopefully be able to refine both his defensive and playmaking abilities.
He just loves to play hockey. That’s what we liked about him.
All that being said, Buchelnikov is an insanely exciting prospect to watch. As he makes the transition from junior to professional hockey, he has a lot of work in front of him but it looks like he’s settling in well so far. Hopefully he will get the call to play in the American Hockey League in the next year or two after he has some VHL/KHL experience under his belt but for now, he’s getting his skates wet with the pros in Russia. There is always room for prospects who can rack up goals and have beautiful puck-handling skills so having him in the Red Wings prospect pool is another win in the books for Steve Yzerman and co.
Delaney Rimer writes about the Detroit Red Wings for THW who brings a new perspective to the hockey scene as a young female in the industry. Formerly, she wrote for Octopus Thrower- a Detroit Red Wings fan blog.