Welcome to the 2021 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1997. Seven staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, Kent Basky, CanucksAbbyFan2, Markus Meyer, Noah Strang, Harsunder Singh H ) and two outside writers (Daniel Gee & Cam Robinson) cast votes for the project.
There’s no question that the Canucks have a serious lack of talent in their pipeline at centre. With Dmitri Zlodeyev clocking in at number 23 on our list, there are only three other centres ahead of him not named Elias Pettersson.
While the ceiling on Zlodeyev isn’t much more than a fourth-line centre, the 19-year-old did make decent strides during an injury-riddled 2020-21 campaign.
Zlodeyev began the season in the MHL’s (Russia’s junior league), where he posted four goals and 12 points in 16 games. He eventually went on to win an MHL championship, although Zlodeyev was just a secondary contributor with one goal and four points in 11 playoff games.
What was more impressive than his junior hockey championship performance was that he ended up with more games played in the VHL (Russia’s AHL equivalent). Zlodeyev was a noticeable contributor at that level, with seven goals in 19 games played.
That represented a decent step forward for the Canucks sixth-rounder in 2019, especially considering that he missed time last season due to illness, a broken bone in his face, and another upper-body injury.
There’s a lot to like about the way Zlodeyev plays the game. Similar to Vasily Podkolzin, one of Zlodeyev’s best attributes is the motor and compete level he brings on every shift. That’s an important trait for the young pivot, since he projects as an energy-providing, bottom-six centre.
What’s Next for Zlodeyev?
As Chris Faber recently mentioned for Canucks Army, Zlodeyev has a chance to be this year’s version of fellow Canucks’ prospect, Arvid Costmar.
At last year’s World Juniors, Costmar was a standout player for Team Sweden with his tenacious forechecking and his ability to piss the opponent off.
Zlodeyev, who should play for Russia at this year’s World Junior Championship, could have a similar impact, based on the fact that both he and Costmar are up-tempo, high-energy centres.
Staying healthy with also be of the utmost importance for Zlodeyev after suffering through a barrage of setbacks last season. He has the chance to play in the KHL this season as a teenager as well, which is no small feat. If he were to play in the KHL, it would be in a limited role. To earn that opportunity though, he’ll have to continue to prove that he belongs in the VHL.
With a dearth of good centre prospects in the Canucks organization, there’s a path for Zlodeyev to find a spot on this roster if he continues to impress over the next couple of seasons.