When the Detroit Red Wings entered all of their picks in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, nearly all of the attention, and rightfully so, went towards first-round pick Marco Kasper. However, the player with the highest offensive upside was taken in the second round. Dmitri Buchelnikov, who is a speedy Russian winger that has success putting the puck in the back of the net and is signed through the 2025 season overseas.
Sound familiar? No, the Detroit Red Wings did not find a loophole and draft Matvei Michkov a year before the Flyers could, but they did draft a “Michkov-Lite” with regard to the contractual situation, nationality, and offensive ability.
Buchelnikov put up impressive numbers in the Russian U17 with 61 points in 28 games during the 2019-20 campaign. He followed that up the next season posting 41 goals & 34 assists in the MHL.
Typically NHL scouts do not get hot and bothered over an undersized forward playing well in the MHL, which some would compare to the level of NAHL Junior hockey in North America; regardless, his play put him on the Red Wings’ radar.
Since being drafted, Buchelnikov has worked his way up the professional hockey ladder in Russia, playing in the VHL, again with impressive numbers (15G, 13A in 35 games), before earning a short stint of 10 games in the coveted KHL.
Detroit Red Wings invested in Dmitri Buchelnikov for the long term.
It is expected that he will be given the majority, if not the entire season in the KHL next season, to refine his game before Detroit seriously considers bringing him across the pond to offer him his entry-level contract.
Truthfully, there is a chance fans will never see him in the red and white-winged wheel, but the potential is through the roof. Outside of Amadeus Lombardi, no other prospect in their system has the power play offensive ceiling that Buchelnikov carries.
If he develops the way that Detroit hopes, he will continue his dominance of finding open space to release the snipe from his twig, burying the biscuit in the bread basket, and putting a smile on Steve Yzerman’s face.
The upside is that he plays a role on the power play similar to Steven Stamkos. The downside is that he stays in Russia for the entirety of his professional career. If he wants to make the leap to the NHL, it will be incredibly important for him to turn heads as he progresses physically through the next few seasons.
Possibly the biggest hurdle in the way is not whether he is talented enough but how he (and most Russian players) will transition to the North American game after playing until age 22 on Russian ice and in a completely different offensive system.