When Semyon Der-Arguchintsev was drafted in the summer of 2018, he immediately became the symbol of the New Maple Leafs, the Kyle Dubas Maple Leafs. Is that all he is? A symbol?
When Nick Robertson was drafted this summer, it was a case of déjà vu.
The two of them, teammates on the Peterborough Petes in the OHL, are almost exactly one year apart in age, and while Der-Arguchintsev is a centre to Robertson’s winger, neither of them is getting by on power alone.
Robertson, taken at 53rd overall this summer, is going to be assumed to be better than Der-Arguchintsev, taken at 76th last year, until there is a really good reason to think otherwise. Like Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin before them, these two forwards will get paired and compared all season long as they play together on the Petes.
Robertson (now the youngest player in the Leafs system), Michael Koster, Mikhail Abramov, Kalle Loponen and Mikko Kokkonen are all younger than Der-Arguchintsev. Rasmus Sandin, six months older, is the next closest.
The major difference between Sandin and Der-Arguchintsev for us voters is that Sandin is entering his second season in pro hockey in the AHL, playing a significant role, but Der-Arguchintsev is still a junior coming off a season no one seems thrilled by. The next closest age-mates to Der-Arguchintsev are Semyon Kizimov and Riley Stotts, two players unranked in this year’s list.
The voters don’t have a lot to go on as we cross-compare players from all positions and leagues. It’s easy to see that voting is heavily influenced by draft position for the youngest, most recently drafted players. But it’s not giving anything away you can’t figure out for yourself to tell you that two players drafted in 2019 are ahead of Der-Arguchintsev in T25 votes.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev 2019 T25 Voting
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Some NHL players graduated off the list due to age, a bunch were added in trade or free agent signings, so Der-Arguchintsev dropping two places from last year to this is treading water in most voter’s estimations.
Will: He’s an honourable mention because he still hasn’t captured his upside, but the upside is still there. His year last season wasn’t particularly great, but he seems to be learning important lessons as he develops. Get stronger, play faster, play harder, and push tempo, because he has all the skill and creativity to keep defenses guessing.
Brigstew: Still shows flashes of the skill, could have been a draft pick this year if he was born two days later, I dropped him in my rankings compared to last year because he seemed to take a step back but I wanted to keep him around for another year to see if he develops more.
Kevin: Der-Arguchintsev is tiny, and he’s probably going to have to bring a lot to the table offensively if he wants to be an NHL player. He’s a fine transition player and playmaker, but he only scored six goals in 67 games this year in the OHL. He won’t turn 19 until September, but he wouldn’t have been a third-round pick if he was eligible for the 2019 draft. There’s still some skill to dream on here, but he’s a long-shot at this point, and didn’t make my list as a result. He needs to have a bounce-back year.
Fulemin: I STILL BELIEVE.
Hardev: Points only show one part of half a player’s game. I’m not worried about SDA’s point totals last year. In my handful of viewings of him, I saw that he was used heavily in the defensive zone, and while his game in front of his own net leaves a lot to be desired, I can respect and be patient with his goal to be a two-way forward. He knows that he likely won’t be a top-end guy so I see it as a good thing that he’s already pivoted to being good at other things.
Emily: He had a really rough year. Even worse, it looks like the skills that made him so attractive may not be able to overcome the handful of deficiencies in his game that he doesn’t really have room for at his size and speed. I still kept him above guys like Ian Scott and Joe Woll because I can get away with just saying goalies are weird and
Der-Arguchintsev’s no-good post-draft season
Most voters have cooled off on Der-Arguchintsev. The expectation is that young players will show development growth every season in a nice smooth curve, hopefully accelerating upward. The reality is often very different, and yet a dip in production is usually seen as very significant. For a forward, the first place to look for progress is in points:
Der-Arguchintsev’s 2018 vs 2019 points
- Even-strength primary points per games played: 0.28 to 0.24
- Power-play primary points per games played: 0.19 to 0.16
Points mean nothing without a look at the shooting percentages. Because shooting percentages fluctuate from season to season in a way that cannot by assigned solely to skill or effort, you need to always assume there’s some randomness baked in.
Der-Arguchintsev’s 2018 vs 2019 shooting percentages
- Even-strength shooting %: 8.43 to 6.94
- Power-play shooting %: 27.78 to 3.85
From his predraft season to his postdraft season, Der-Arguchintsev had a similar role on the team, but his results stayed the same. The only big change is the power-play shooting % on a shot rate (Shots on Goal per Games Played) that went up from 1.5 to 1.6.
A deeper look at his shooting would be nice, and Pick224.com (where I got the numbers above) provides that:
While the breakdown of total shots is interesting, the more meaningful thing is the location of his even-strength shooting. The low-danger, low-percentage shots from beyond the circles, and the medium-danger shots from the high-slot are almost totally gone, leaving only net-front shots. It’s also worth noting that Der-Arguchintsev seemed to be playing a different role on the power play, so that huge drop in PP SH% might have a partial explanation in shot location.
At even strength, Der-Arguchintsev has begun to concentrate his shooting in the Matthews zone, and that’s a very good thing. He’s getting into the net-front area against some of those big OHL defencemen, and it shows his brain is doing some growing, which is a lot more important than how much muscle mass he’s put on.
A deeper dive into the wingers Der-Archuchintsev played with on the Petes year-over-year shows a similar improvement in where they were shooting from, particularly replacing Nikita Korotselev with Robertson. The lack of points growth by Der-Arguchintsev was largely driven by the power play fizzling out after a hot year in 2018 and his own shooting % drop.
In light of this evidence of growth, I was struck by this quote from last year’s T25 profile, written before this season, where Scott Wheeler had a mixed review of SDA:
On one hand, it’s clear — as always — that he can make plays. There’s no question he sees the ice as well as anyone at the OHL level. But on the other hand, it’s clear that Der-Arguchintsev is one of those rare players who is successful in the OHL because he’s gifted, but will not be able to play like he does up a level. There’s a natural aging and growth curve that will obviously make him better, and fast, mitigating against some of that in the process, but a lot of it comes down to how Der-Arguchintsev plays stylistically.
But what if he does just go out and play the same way everywhere? Allowing for the refinements to his game he needs no matter where he plays, what if he is forever fearless?
The ECHL vs Junior Hockey
Very few skaters on NHL contracts ever play ECHL hockey at any age. Der-Arguchintsev played three regular season games and nine playoff games in the first two rounds for the Newfoundland Growlers. After suffering an undisclosed injury, he missed the final run that ended in a Kelly Cup win.
At age 18 it’s virtually unheard of to play in the ECHL, so there’s almost nothing to compare his results to. Only one other forward has ever appeared in an ECHL game at that age since 2000. Nick Ebert, a small, scoring defender originally drafted by Los Angeles, played a similar run of games in the ECHL between his third and fourth season in the OHL at age 18. Ebert, now 25, was signed by the Senators this season as a free agent after an impressive year in the SHL.
I watched a few of Der-Arguchintsev’s playoff games, and listened to most of the rest of his games on the Growlers radio broadcast, so I have some impressions of his play. Remember that radio broadcasters are homers, and the Growlers were very carefully using Der-Arguchintsev in a league that is an order of magnitude more “physical” than even the AHL. But what I heard and saw was a player playing his own game. He wasn’t hugging the boards like a kid on his first day at public skating, rather he was driving the net, and looking to make things happen in the middle of the ice.
He ended up with a goal and an assist in the regular season and again in the playoffs. In his short set of regular season games he had 2 Shots on Goal per game, 1.8 in the playoffs. Those numbers are a lot lower than the Growlers top offensive players, who cut like a buzzsaw through weaker opposition most of the time, but it’s more than his Petes shooting rate.
Der-Arguchintsev drew some mild criticism for his play defensively, and for his habits of giving away the puck in the middle of the ice. He’s not a mature player yet, and just like Sandin in the AHL, he needed to learn where the line was for how risky he could play. But that’s something all players have to do, and while it’s one reason why some of them never make the jump to higher levels, Der-Arguchintsev has already shown some signs that he’s bright enough to figure this out.
Der-Arguchintsev, carefully used on a pro team full of the sorts of players who played his style of game, looked capable of playing a secondary role and adding value. Sandin, on the Marlies, is a top-four defender who put in some top-pairing minutes and had a very successful season. You won’t find any voters ranking Der-Arguchintsev over Sandin, that ordering is very obvious, but how far below Sandin he should be? Given his game isn’t tilted to his own goal scoring, like Robertson’s is. How far below Robertson he should be ranked is a question that has many plausible answers as well.
We’ll see Der-Arguchintsev next in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. And then comes Leafs/Marlies training camp, where I think we should expect to see him in game action again. If he were still in Russia like the other Semyon, he’d be playing pro hockey full time by now, but after camp he’ll be back on the Petes where he will be compared to Robertson all season long. I bet you 100 imaginary dollars he scores fewer goals than Robertson, and when we meet back here next summer to rank these players, we’ll have him below Robertson again.
We aren’t really going to be clear on these two and where they stand relative to Sandin until they’re on the Marlies together in a couple of years. But as you can see by the votes, I ranked Der-Arguchintsev second highest in a ranking I heavily weighted towards younger players. Maybe he’ll hit his limit of growth potential, or his less than top-notch skating will hold him back, and we’ll look back on our early love for this symbol of the New Maple Leafs and laugh. But maybe a player who can handle the ECHL at 18 is someone we should take more seriously.
How big is the gap between SDA and Nick Robertson?
This poll is closed
2" and 9 lb
Robertson is clearly the more gifted player.
One year in age.
One year in recency bias.