Out of all the young prospects expected to enter the Toronto Marlies this season and start that final stage of development before (hopefully) leaping onto the Toronto Maple Leafs, I am the most optimistic about Semyon Der-Arguchintsev.

Initially a third round draft pick in 2018, SDA has spent time in the OHL, ECHL, KHL, and AHL and has been a useful, reliable, and talented centreman everywhere he’s been. In the OHL, SDA ran wingman to fellow Leafs prospect Nick Robertson, and the two were dominant on a good Petes team. Robertson scored 55 goals in 2019-20 and SDA assisted on pretty much all of them. The team was supposed to go deep into the playoffs, but the postseason was cancelled.

The following season (last year), SDA started playing in Russia as their season started in September. He was the second line centre for Torpedo Novgorod at the age of 20. He didn’t score much and had a knee injury midway through the season, but he showed that he could play top six minutes as a two-way centre in the regular season and playoffs in the second best league in the world. I cannot understate the fact that he played such a difficult role at his age in the league he was in.

By March, SDA had finished his season and joined the Marlies where he revived the incredible chemistry he had with Robertson. This time they had Joey Anderson on the other side. Unfortunately, bad luck struck again and Anderson suffered a season-ending injury three games into their stint as a line. After only six games in the AHL, even SDA was injured again and out for the rest of the year. It was a disappointing end to a season that showed major strides.

SDA The Player

When looking at centres in the NHL, you’re rarely going to find guys who score a lot individually. One of the few exceptions is #1 on our list (spoiler). For the majority of centres, their job is to be the anchor on the line as a presence in the offensive and defensive zone, as well as the conduit between the two zones. SDA, similar to Adam Brooks on the Marlies or Alex Kerfoot on the Leafs, moves the puck up the ice, is very positionally sound in the defensive zone, and often doesn’t get much credit for the production it creates for his linemates.

There’s a reason why centres make excellent wingers (like on Team Canada) because they have less to do on the ice and they can spend more time being creative and scoring. It’s also why wingers who are very strong at these fundamentals often get asked to play centre, at least part time. Some local examples of that are Engvall on the Marlies and Kerfoot on the Leafs. William Nylander has kept getting thrown into the middle of the ice because he has a very strong pass of the puck, even if his in-zone defense can be lacking.

When it comes to actually explaining what SDA does on the ice, see my article after his first (and only) week on the Toronto Marlies. He showed a lot of what he was good at right out of the gate, as well as the solvable areas where he needs to improve.

“Right off the bat, I could tell SDA was comfortable off the rush; he moves really well and knows how to make space and open lanes through the neutral zone. He seems fine in his own zone, but I think being able to challenge physically for pucks on a regular basis will come when he fills out his frame. He has the brain for it — knows where to be and gets his stick in good places — but when it comes to the AHL, that kind of stuff comes with time, like it did with Adam Brooks.

“Offensively, SDA is very focused on passing, not just the time he sent back a point-blank chance with Sparks for Robertson who wasn’t close to the net, but I noticed an overall tendency of passing being the number one and number two options. I have to think the Marlies are telling him to be more greedy and take more shots, even if he feels like he’s forcing it a little bit. SDA has great mechanics for a shot, he just needs the confidence and get some more strength as his body matures. That said, I get the impulse to send it to Robertson, he has one of the best prospect shots in the game.” - Pension Plan Puppets

Marlies Monday: Semyon Der-Arguchintsev impressed in first week with team

You don’t just have to hear from me, below is a quote from SDA’s Petes coach, Rob Wilson, speaking to his much-improved defensive game.

“I think Sem defensively has been really, really good,” said Petes head coach Rob Wilson. “His positional play on exits has been excellent. His back pressure has been excellent. He had two at the start of the third (Saturday night) that were really important. That’s where I see his biggest improvement, on the defensive side of the puck. He’s worked at it.” - Peterborough Examiner

Looking ahead, it’s very possible SDA turns into another Adam Brooks. They were drafted in the same spot and both entered the AHL at around the same time. He could very quickly become a reliable 1C on the Marlies but not quite have enough offense or size to crack the NHL. That said, I think SDA has more going for him being relatively young for his draft year and having already spent a full season in a pro league that’s probably better than the AHL.

His offense will limit his ceiling out of the top-six in the NHL, unless he learns to get greedy and surprise us all, but a third line centre on the Leafs is as much or more than you could probably ask for from a third round pick. In terms of his play style, he’s very easy to play with since he does so much work getting the puck through the first two thirds of the ice with his puck recovery and transitions. With that, he might be able to elevate a lot of players’ games, especially ones that are good in the offensive zone but not so much defensively.

How we voted

In terms of voting, I had SDA the highest at 13th, while Seldo put him 20th. He ended up solidly in the middle of those two numbers.

Der-Arguchintsev Voting

PlayerSemyon Der-Arguchintsev
Weighted Average15.8
Highest Rank13
Lowest Rank20
Spread in Votes7

What the Voters had to say

Katya: SDA committed a grievous sin. He didn’t score more in his post draft OHL season than he did the prior year. That’s it, stamp him a bust, laugh at Dubas for the PR contract signing and move on. So ignore his subsequent junior results, his injury-shortened tour as a 2C in the KHL (ah ha! He can’t “stay healthy”) and just remember those goals he didn’t score. I ranked him just outside the serious contenders for at least depth NHL jobs because that’s what I think he could be. His experience and play in pro hockey puts him miles ahead of the various juniors who are flavour of the month, and he’s only 21 years old, for heaven’s sake. I don’t think there’s votes for a single player on this list I disagree with more than some of his. (There likely is.)

Brigstew: I wish I got to watch him more in the KHL and AHL last year than I did, which was only a little. By all accounts (Katya), he played quite well in the KHL in a way that was a bit unexpected. The injury hurt, and the pandemic didn’t help either, but it will be interesting to see the Marlies next year when they actually have some new, young centers like SDA and Abramov ready to take up some minutes.

Here’s some old highlights, I only added them because there are some fun highlights with a certain Marlies forward who was signed to an ELC this summer. Also Nikita Korostelev.

Do you think #15 is a fair ranking for SDA?

I had him ranked higher than that.115
I ranked him lower.49
Sounds about right. 194

Where do you see SDA ending up?

NHL top six49
NHL 3C213
NHL 4C55
AHL 1C82