NHL Utah Prospects But & Simashev Cap Off Impressive KHL Seasons – The Hockey Writers – NHL Utah

It’s a strange feeling talking about prospects again, something that has been overshadowed by the relocation of the Arizona Coyotes to Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s also strange not having someone to root for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Coyotes rarely reached the playoffs while in Arizona, so maybe that’s not as strange. In all likelihood, Utah is acquiring all the players, prospects, and coaches as well all know, including 2023 first-round draft picks Dmitri Simashev and Daniil But.

Related: 3 Burning Questions Entering Utah’s First Offseason

Simashev was taken sixth and But 12th overall, so obviously, both have implications on Utah and the franchise’s trajectory. It’s not every day a team is able to draft two players within the top 15, let alone the first round. Unlike the majority of prospects, both players currently play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), playing for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.

Simashev and But are on their own path to the NHL, but the 2023-24 season offered them plenty of experience and development for 2024-25 and beyond.

Dmitri Simashev Taking the Next Step Forward in Development

When Simashev was drafted sixth overall during last year’s draft, it was a shocker, to say the least. There’s always a curveball in NHL drafts, and the Coyotes were that team when taking Simashev. Including the fact that Matvei Michkov was also still on the board, it seemed to be a puzzling move. Entering the 2023-24 season, Simashev looked to take a leap forward since he would be playing his first season in the KHL, or at least his first entire season.

The 6-foot-5 defenseman scored four goals and ten points in 63 games and tacked on one assist in 17 playoff games, making it to the Gagarin Cup Final. “They’re just on a very good team. They’re in the Gagarin Cup finals,” Coyotes director of player development Lee Stempniak said. “Yeah, you wish they would play more, but you understand the situation. The way the league runs is they’re young guys on a strong team and there’s just not lots of opportunity for them, especially as it gets down to the wire here. But it’s still a great learning experience for them and again, they’ve played well in their limited minutes. There’s nothing in their play where you’re like, ‘Ah, I see why they don’t play.’ I think it’s more like a circumstantial thing.”

Dmitry Simashev Lokomotiv
Dmitry Simashev, Lokomotiv Hockey Club (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Simashev was limited in his role this season, either playing limited minutes or dressing but not playing. While it’s not necessarily ideal, it’s trial and error while playing in what’s considered the world’s second-best league. Not to mention he’s still 19 years old, too.

“Even if they’re playing limited minutes, they’re still playing upwards of 80 games this season which comes a lot closer to mimicking the NHL schedule,” Stempniak said. “He’s getting a lot of game experience, even with lower minutes, because they’ve gone so far. And then I think just going through it helps. Bill always talks about the importance of winning. It’s something that’s got to be embedded in you.”

2024-25 has encouraging things ahead for Simashev as more opportunities should be coming his way.

Daniil But Looking to Be a Dynamic Threat Next Season

As much of a shocker as Simashev going sixth overall, it was the same reaction when But was taken 12th overall. Despite that, there is so much to like about But and he showed a lot of that this season with Lokomotiv. Playing in 55 games this season, he recorded ten goals and 21 points, adding one goal and two points in 19 playoff games. One of the main reasons he was drafted so high was his goal-scoring ability and his height; where he stands in at 6-foot-7, something you clearly can’t teach.

“He starts some games as a 13th forward and works his way up to the second line, and then some games, he starts on the second line and finds himself as a 13th forward,” Stempniak said. “There’s no glaring mistakes when he plays. He’s been very impressive in the sense that he plays a mature game. He doesn’t cheat offensively. He doesn’t take unnecessary risks with the puck. He just plays the game as it is.

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“If he’s coming up ice and the right play is to chip it in, he tends to chip it in, but if the right play is to hold onto it and challenge a D, he does that, too. He is committed to all three zones. He wants to be good defensively. He’s good in the neutral zone. He’s just got a mature approach to the game and you don’t see a lot of those characteristics in younger players.”

There’s a lot to like with But, and there’s tons of upside when watching him play, and what he could become when he arrives in Salt Lake City is exciting. Next season, both But and Simashev will likely have more prominent roles, which is also exciting and should be fun to see.

Both Players Crucial to Bill Armstrong’s Plan

There’s no doubt that both But and Simashev are going to play critical factors in general manager Bill Armstrong’s plan. Of course, Utah fans won’t be able to see them play until at least 2025-26, as their contracts with Lokomotiv remain until then. After that, they can sign with the NHL club, but it’s always possible they sign an extension in the KHL, as some younger players tend to do that. While there is risk in drafting Russians, if they pan out, it’ll be worth the risk.