Thoughts on Oleg Sosunov

As I prepare to head to Estero next Sunday and hopefully get a couple of days to watch camp and exhibitions, I’ve been thinking about where the big guy will eventually top out. He can’t really bust because he’s a low round reach in the draft. What constitutes a home run will likely be in the eye of each beholder. I’ll say if he graduates from prospect status prior to aging out on a contending Lightning team, that’ll be a homerun for me.

I’ve seen him in person during 3 days of camp last fall plus his first exhibition game. Had planned to see him twice in the Prospects tournament prior but got hurricaned out. Also saw him the first day of 3-on-3 at rookie camp this summer. I’ve personally seen the other large size D Prospects through the years. Of course the game changed after the strike and the tightening of clutch and grab play. Since ‘04 only Andy Rogers and Brandon Elliott in ‘04, Vlad Mihalik in ‘05, Victor Hedman in ‘09 and Cal Foote in ‘17 represent big D taken in the draft. The ones before then mostly lacked the wheels to play today as well as Mihalik and possibly Elliott. Sustr a marginal skater in today’s game was signed out of college while Keith Aulie and Brayden Coburn were acquired via trade.

The Sosunov pick to me represents a low risk (6th round) high reward pick. It’s hard to find a lot of info on him but I managed to find that he started playing hockey at a relatively late age of 10 and he admits the combination of his growth and struggles skating left him behind. He was big young, so obviously growing into his body was an athletic feat in itself. The good news is that both mother and father were high level track and field athletes in Russia, so the gene pool is favorable.

What I saw last camp was a guy that skated at least as well as Sustr and had a better looking skating posture in doing so. Bowness was quoted as saying that he was around Charo at that age and Oleg skated better at that similar age (recency bias perhaps?) Toughts this summer were that his skating had improved markedly from last years camp to this. While he’ll never have Hedman wheels, skating speed should not be what holds him back.

What I know: Good feet play! I’ve been coaching various sports (not hockey) since 1973 and the first thing I look for are good feet, in every sport I’ve coached. Not straight out speed, but tight quick footwork. Those kids improve faster and if they’re interested enough will become the best players in time. At prospect camp this summer Sosunov’s feet wowed me. Barre-Boulet got a lot of kudos for zig-zagging Katchouk in tight to the net and burying the shot. About a minute prior he tried Oleg and failed! Kind of like the defensive basketball drill where the defender with his hands behind his back and has to cut off the dribbler and turn him back, Sosunov did that same to ABB. ABB tried to cut in, cut off, tried to go wide turned back in until ABB was towards the bottom of the circle and turned back whereas he took Katchouk to about 6 feet. I don’t believe the legs in any way will hold him back.

His shot from the point seems adequate. His stick handling worries me, especially under pressure. He seems plenty capable when not pressured, but I haven’t seen enough when pressured by an average to above checker. I really haven’t seen enough live action to get a measure of his hockey sense, but I also haven’t seen anything to set of alarms. So, barring an Andy Rogers type injury history I would project him a notch above Sustr. I see him as a future 3rd pair/ 7th D on a contending team. Those feet should continue to play. That’s a pretty high reward for a low risk pick!