The Leafs selected SDA in the 3rd round in 2018, Kyle Dubas’ first draft as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. SDA came with an odd amount of hype right off the bat, as many prospect gurus were quick to point out that he was a small, skilled player that had a chance at being a high-end skilled player, or having almost no shot at all, quite similar to Jeremy Bracco when he was drafted in 2015. Bracco didn’t work out, but SDA still has plenty of years in him to show that he can be an impact player.
His play since has been somewhat inconsistent, a big part as to why this hype has since gone down a bit. His draft +1 season was disappointing, but he also followed it up with a stellar 2019-20 season playing alongside fellow Leafs prospect Nick Robertson. He’s likely to be staying in Russia where he’s currently playing, but there’s a chance he could end up coming back to North America and play somewhere in the Leafs system once the season resumes, either with the Newfoundland Growlers or the Toronto Marlies, so his first full professional season might be the most important one for his development.
Rank – Grade – NHL Readiness
14TH – C – 2-4 YEARS
Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted: 2018 3rd round, 76th overall
What kind of player is he?
After two straight years of Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter going for size (and missing way more often than not), Dubas clearly wanted to shift the focus of the team towards skilled players with high hockey IQ, a strategy that has already started to pan out with the success of Rasmus Sandin and Robertson. SDA almost became the embodiment of that in the 2018 draft with his high end skill combined with his smaller stature, especially for a center. While he doesn’t have the size, his IQ gives him the awareness he needs to help suit his playmaking style, something that was very apparent in his draft year.
His 2019-20 season with Robertson also showed that he has a good enough IQ to play with elite players in his respective league. It shouldn’t take a crazy amount of skill to be productive with high-end talent, but playing at above a point per game with that player probably means there’s a lot of skill on the other player’s end as well.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) January 20, 2020
His IQ and skating are also something that has transitioned well to his early stint in the KHL this season, as despite playing in a league with men as opposed to teenagers, his play hasn’t faltered, and he’s started to play a bigger role. His skill hasn’t really stuck out just yet, but at the very least, he hasn’t looked out of place. The bigger ice is probably a benefit, so it’ll be interesting to see how this transition continues in North America.
⭐️⭐️⭐️Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (KHL, RW): 3 GP, 2 PTS, 17:39 TOI
SDA has transitioned to the KHL without much of a problem. He's now getting second-line minutes in the second-best league in the world and has been creating chances for Torpedo. Promising signs as SDA turns pro. pic.twitter.com/G6RPxnw2MG
— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) November 22, 2020
One of the biggest flaws in his game after the draft was his lack of a shot, as well as his play away from the puck, so hopefully those are things he can improve upon in the KHL, but at the very least, what he’s good at has translated to pro well so far.
By the numbers
SDA caught the attention of Dubas and co. with an impressive draft year with 12 goals and 51 points in 68 games. That, combined with the skill he showed with the puck whether he produced or not, was part of what got him selected in the 3rd round, and what also created a bit of hype for him going into 2018-19.
Of course, his trajectory after that wasn’t exactly what he had planned. After getting a bit of attention in the Leafs 2018 preseason, he struggled in the OHL, as he had just 46 points in 62 games, including only 6 goals. Not the worst, but in his draft +1 year, you’d expect him to start to dominate in the OHL if he wanted to show promise in the NHL. He had a 12 game stint with the Growlers for the regular season and playoffs, and was a part of their championship run, although he didn’t play the largest role for it.
However, he followed that up with a much better 2019-20 season, as he put up 75 points in 55 games, playing a part in Robertson’s 55 goal season. The two dominated the OHL, and while Robertson was probably the driver of that line, it at the very least showed that SDA could be productive alongside skilled talent, something that could be useful if he ever wants to crack the NHL.
This season he’s started playing in the KHL on a loan and has performed well up to this point with three points in seven games, and has already been bumped up to the 2nd line, a strong sign for him and how well he’s transitioned to the professional game.
What’s next for SDA?
At 20 years old, this season is far from a make or break for his development, as he still has quite a few years to work on his game and hone it to be able to play at the NHL level. That said, this is still a very important year for him. How he handles the professional game in both Russia and North America will be huge for how his game develops, as well as his chances of cracking the NHL down the road.
So far his play in Russia has been a good sign of that, but there’s still some caution there, both with the fact that it’s been seven games, as well as the larger ice being a bit more beneficial to his style of game. Still great signs, but not something to write home about.
I think best case scenario is he ends up as a third line center who can possibly play on the second line in a pinch, particularly if it’s with his old Petes teammate Robertson, as well as be a solid power play specialist. That said, he could very well also line up with my earlier comparison of Jeremy Bracco, in that he has the tools, but it just doesn’t work out at the NHL level, particularly in the Leafs organization, and just becomes a player who thrives in the AHL.
While his development is going to break the Leafs’ backs if it doesn’t pan out, him turning into an NHL option could work wonders for the team’s depth down the road during the cap crunch. It’s just not something I’d hold my breath for, at least not yet.