Does amazing talent trump poor fitness?
That is the question you inevitably have to ask when it comes to Dmitiri Sokolov.
His fitness was likely the reason he was still on the draft table in the seventh round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Minnesota Wild eventually picked him at 196th overall, despite him putting up 52 points in 68 games for the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves in his draft year.
On the opening day of training camp this year, we once again saw him struggle mightily with Bruce Boudreau’s infamous conditioning test.
Rightfully, you have to question if he can cut it at a truly elite level if he can’t fix his fitness issues up. If, however, the twenty year-old can knuckle down, get working out and sort that problem out, the Minnesota Wild possibly have a seventh round steal on their hands.
After being drafted, he returned to major junior hockey, scoring 48 goals and 72 points in 64 games for the Sudbury Wolves in the 2016-17 season and then having a 50 goal year, totalling 96 points in 64 games split between the Sudbury Wolves and Barrie Colts the season after.
It’s not like he’s lacking talent, either as a goal-scorer or play-maker; he just seems to have a knack for reading the game and being one step ahead of the play.
Since joining up with the Iowa Wild at the start of this season, Sokolov isn’t seemingly having too much trouble adapting to the professional level.
With nine AHL games under his belt, he’s managed to score two goals and tally seven assists and is certainly showing some good signs of becoming a more mature hockey player.
He still has his frailties defensively and to be honest, he may never fix these. However, provided he resolves the fitness issue, this may not be an issue. Offense can sometimes be the best form of defense, after all.