Daniil Sobolev: The Russian Bulldog

Most reading this may be thinking Daniil who?

Saginaw Spirit v Windsor Spitfires
Saginaw Spirit v Windsor Spitfires / Dennis Pajot/GettyImages

Drafted in the 5th round by the Canadiens in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Daniil Sobolev is an extremely un-talked-about Canadiens prospect. Some think it may be due to his non-flashy style of play, others might think it's because most aren't expecting much from a 5th-round pick. Sobolev began the 2023-24 season with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL. He was then moved to the Brantford Bulldogs at the OHL trade deadline to bolster the Bulldog's defence going into the playoffs. Sobolev is now making a strong case to become a staple for the AHL's Laval Rocket and possibly a solid trade chip moving forward for the Canadiens and here is why.

Sobolev's current stats this season in the OHL sit at 7 goals and 18 assists for a total of 25 points. he has 65 penalty minutes and is a plus-6 in 64 games. The Brantford Bulldogs also started playoffs last week and he has 1 assist in 3 playoff games.

I have watched most of Sobolevs games he has played this year and here is my report of his play so far:

Sitting at 6.01 ft and 223 pounds Sobolev is built like a brick. the first few times I watched him this season I couldn't get over his physical presence on the ice for only being 6.01 ft. He is a man amongst boys out there by the way he controls the game physically. With Sobolev, you get zero flash but extremely strong fundamentals and work ethic (I have never seen him take a shift off ). He is a master at breaking out of his end and starting a rush up the ice. I would call him a strong puck-moving defensive defenseman. He is the biggest hitter I've seen in the OHL this year and has had some serious highlight-reel hits. Sobolev is a staple of the Bulldog's defence core right now and is a major difference-maker for them night in and night out.

In the end, Daniils main focus is a defence-first mentality, whether it be blocking shots or cutting gaps from opposing players, what he lacks offensively he surely makes up for defensively. a word to describe his play would be "Aggressive". Although he plays aggressively, Sobolev handles himself on the ice like a man. he doesn't get drawn into bad penalties or nonsense after the whistle as often as you would think a player who plays his style would. he is stone-faced for most of the game and handles business night in and night out. a true pro already.

Hailing from St. Petersburg, Russia. it was questioned why he was the only European prospect the Canadiens had that was playing in North America but it is clear now that Sobolev made a great decision by doing so. he is extremely comfortable on the smaller ice now and because of that it will make his transition to the AHL next year a lot more seamless.

I believe that Sobolev will surprise some people at camp this year and he will see some big minutes next year in Laval. with how log-jammed the Canadiens are at defence it wouldn't surprise me to see Daniil be used as a solid trade chip, he could easily become a "sweeten the pot" player in a big deal for the Canadiens down the road.

Keep an eye on the OHL playoffs and The upcoming Canadiens training camp for next year I believe Daniil to be a very underrated/unknown prospect for the Canadiens whose future gets brighter every day by his improved play. by no means am I saying he is a game-changer player but he is also the kind of player every team needs. Notable players who have had similar statlines to Sobolev at this age would be: Joel Edmundson, Brandon Carlo, Justin Holl, Ryan Graves and Brett Pesce and that list goes on. So while you would like to see some sort of resemblance of progress in his offensive game at this level, it isn't a necessity with the type of player Sobolev is. he has never put up big numbers offensively even dating back to his U16 season.

Skip to 3:57 to see one of many big Sobolev Smashes!