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What I saw was a more patient, mature and efficient Samorukov, a much different player than he’d been when I first started to watch his games in his final year of major junior, 2018-19.
His game had plenty of dazzle and razzle at that point.
In the final months his major junior career, had had transformed into arguably the most dynamic defenceman in Canadian major junior hockey.
In no small part due to the strength of his play, his Guelph Storm squad made the 2019 Memorial Cup finals. He put up 28 points in 24 playoff games that year, and was named second star in Guelph’s final game, a 6-4 semi-final loss.
But even then, even when his game was full of glitter and gold, there were questions marks about him as a pro prospect. He earned the second star honours with some strong skating, shooting and passing, as well as a few nasty open ice hits. At the same time, he got beat out of the corner by big Boston prospect Jakub Lauko on opposition Rouyn-Noranda’s crucial fifth goal in the third period. It wasn’t Samorukov’s only defensive mistake in his four Memorial Cup games. He got beat in his own zone enough times that it was then apparent he was going to need a season or two at the American Hockey League level.
A few months later in August 2019, major junior talent sleuth Sean Patrick Ryan of The Oil Knight blog listed Samurkov’s strengths: “Excellent mobility, good top-end speed, stronger skater forward than backward…Head usually up, delivers a strong but easy to handle puck tape to tape… Very capable of delivering an open ice hit. Booming shot from the point that used to be erratic but has improved significantly.” And his weakenesses: “Compete level was inconsistent for most of career in junior… Plays a high-risk style game. Over skates the play too often. Tries to get cute and walk around guys in the neutral zone, turns it over. Guilty of not getting the puck out effectively when pressured. Panics and throws too many pucks up the middle in the defensive zone, or not hard enough along the glass. Passing has gotten much better not nearly as many turnovers there now.”