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DJLR Draft Profiles: Can you really have it all with Anton Silayev?

Alright, first thing’s first; a bias problem I have: I am extremely skeptical of tall players in the NHL Draft.

My reasons are as such; their natural gift of size often comes during the formative years of their lives. Their coaches; looking at the 6’5 16-year old who showed up to practice, decide that the battle’s already half-won, and focus down on filling out their frame or trying to improve their stick skills in order to take advantage of their wingspan, and promptly neglect their skating, which becomes a major issue for them once the game speeds up, and more importantly, the natural cussed-ness of your average multi-millionaire hockey player goes up. Suddenly getting crunched by a big mean guy doesn’t scare the 32 year old vet who’s been crunched a half million times as much as it did the 15 year olds in Medicine Hat. Getting a player who can be more than just a very big body is rare, and those who end up having long careers, are just as rare in my opinion, as the 5’7 waterbug skaters.

Russian-Born Anton Silayev is ranked as high as he is because he’s a 6’7, 200+ lb. defender who can skate like a forward. That’s going to be the crux of what makes him so attractive to NHL teams. Watching him move…even I start to doubt my own skepticism.

So let’s get into everything else while also acknowledging that he’s a bit of a unicorn.

Who is he?

Anton Silayev is a 6’7, 200-pound Left-Handed Defenseman playing in the top Russian League; the KHL. He plays for Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod; or just Torpedo for short.

What’s he good at?


Big players like him are usually dinged hard for their skating for reasons I gave above. Silayev is not one of those players at ALL; his acceleration in all directions is explosive, he’s agile enough to keep up with smaller players who should be faster than him, and his ability to do the very technical parts of skating (crossovers, power generation and the like) is at or near NHL level even at his young age, making him one of the most bizarre experiences of watching a kid his size slide into place in the defensive zone with ease, and do a lot of the legwork of getting the puck out himself with such a stunning level of speed. Watching him move genuinely feels strange; even some of the fastest in the KHL can’t keep up with what’s he’s capable of…because he’s already on top of them.

But all that is useless if you don’t have good hockey ability beyond that, and Silayev is inarguably a phenomenal defender at his level of the game. His skating means he can close passing and shooting lanes with ease, and his impressive frame means he can gain leverage on forecheckers in order to strip the puck from them, or use his long reach and stick to force passes and shots away from his goaltender. You need to pick your spots for a big hit a lot more in European leagues, but when asked to do so, Silayev is more than willing to go lower the boom if he has to. Combine that with a real confidence in battling for pucks and fighting for position in board battles, he really seems like a sure shot to be a major contributor once he manages to leave the KHL.

Which incidentally, shouldn’t be held against him; the KHL is full of pricks who try to keep dudes over in Russia however way they can thanks to the uh…things What Are Occuring. Just ask Ivan Fedotov.

What does he need to get better at?

Decision-making. Specifically when it comes to breakouts.

Here’s the thing: I think if you’re drafting Silayev, you’re not putting much stock into his offense to begin with. You are drafting a potential 1a or 1b defense-first blueliner of the 2030s. But still, there’s signs that if you can improve his ability to score, he could end up being a tremendous threat on both sides of the ice. He rocketed up the draft boards early on due to a nearly point-per-game pace he picked up in the first few games he played in the KHL, before coming back down into being an otherwise merely good defensive defenseman who can occasionally chip in a goal here and there. He has all the tools to do both, and if you really sat him down and worked on it with him, I think you could have a dangerous player showing up in the next few years; ready to play in the NHL.

The problem is that one of his biggest issues is what happens when he actually has the puck.

In this case, Silayev doesn’t seem to trust himself to lead a breakout on his own, even if the forechecker would have to overcome all 6’7 of him, leading to passes that go off the boards or handing it off to his defense partner. Part of this is inexperience; he’s 17 years old playing in a real man-ass man league with men in it and was the youngest player on Torpedo by a significant margin. Being a little panicky and making the safe play to keep from getting perma-benched is understandable. The bigger issue is that doing these safe things over and over and over again makes him predictable, or worse; exploitable. A pass up the boards can get picked off, and dumping it off to a defensive partner can cause breakouts to fail if they have to double back; extending your defensive zone time needlessly.

If you draft Silayev, you’re betting on two things: number one, time in Torpedo will give him the confidence necessary to overcome these weaknesses, and that his timing and playmaking coming out of his own end will improve.

My Verdict

Silayev is a specific, three-four year project starting from the day you draft him. Torpedo is an alright KHL team and the KHL’s inability to gather possibly better foreign talent in the way it used to due to The Things What Are Happening means Silayev will have plenty of opportunity to grow and get used to playing men that, in all honesty, are never going to get close to his size.

But…that “Safe is the only thing” mentality is potentially a real killer for him being anything other than a depth defender at the very best. It’s this maddening quality to his game that has him bouncing all over the board among the prognosticators; Dobber Prospects dropped him out of the top 10 entirely, while ISS Hockey has him at 8th, where TSN’s Bob McKenzie has him all the way up at 2nd. His tools to be great are all there; it’s just putting them together into a player that will be able to use them beyond being a perfectly fine middle pairing defenseman that is the frustrating part. Again, it’s why I’m skeptical of these gigantic kids. They have such a unique advantage in one aspect of the game that it’s easy for their development to be completely overcome by it. I personally would rather have players with offensive upside on the blueline.

But…he is 6’7. Of all the things you can teach; that is the one thing you cannot. That is still a very powerful thing for NHL Scouts. If you can teach him…Or rather, convince his Russian coaches that he can be taught…There could be something here.

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