If Dmitry Sinitsyn is still rusty and figuring out the NCAA game, the Stars may have found a gem very late in the NHL draft. The player I saw at the Boston University - Umass Lowell didn't look like a freshman who still hasn't adjusted and finds himself out of the rotation on some nights. Instead, he was cool, calm and collected and made some expert decisions with the puck.
Even though he found himself on the bench for most of the second half as penalties disrupted the line rotations, Sinitsyn was focused and ready to go whenever called upon. He doesn't have any jitters and it's so obvious that he trusts himself with the puck on his stick.
Many young defenders, especially ones who come in playing a bottom line role sacrifice creativity for consistency. Sinitsyn doesn't have to; on multiple occasions when most first year players and even a lot of vets would have looked to flick the puck off the glass and out of the zone, Sinitsyn instead decided to keep the puck, button hook, and look for a new opening.
While at first I was worried with this, he quickly got rid of any of those doubts as I never once saw him commit a turnover in a non-offensive situation. He was impeccable in his zone and the neutral zone and had the ability to spring his forwards with great passes along the boards. One of the Umass-Lowell Riverhawks' best scoring chances in the first period came off a great D-zone to offensive blue line saucer pass by Sinitsyn where he found a winger sprinting down the off wing.
Later on, he caused the first goal of the game with a great rush from his own zone all the way down to the goal line. Corralling the puck around the defensive hash marks, he took a quick look to see if a pass was open, saw that it wasn't and decided to do it himself. The result was one of the niftiest rushes I've seen this year. He didn't throw out any fancy moves or anything, but he stick-handled extremely deftly and was able to fake out a few defenders in order to get into the zone, never once losing possession.
Once in the zone, he carried it a bit too much but still didn't lose it. Instead he was able to protect the puck with his body and nice hands and distribute it into the opposite corner, allowing the forwards to set themselves up in the zone and execute a great passing sequence for a goal. The other thing he has to work on in situations like that is keeping his head up. Even though that rush was really good and worked out, he spent a bit too much time looking down at the puck and as other teams start to focus on him more and as he advances in playing time and eventually in level of hockey he'll need to be able to do that kind of thing while remaining completely aware of his surroundings.
Sinitsyn also looked good defensively. He doesn't move around a whole lot, but he stays in his assignment and reacts to the forwards bearing down on him. Instead of trying to do too much and chase the puck, he waits for the play to come to him so that he can react in the right way, not just any way, and separate the man from the puck.
On top of that he's a big kid. At 6'2 200 lbs., he has the frame and the strength to knock players around, and he does. Most of the defensive plays I saw him make involved stick work and positioning, but when it comes down to battling in the corners he's quick and efficient about pushing people off the puck. Like with the other aspects of his game, he doesn't try to do too much or get fancy, but he reacts quickly and effectively. He seemed to play with such natural ability that a lot of the time it was hard to notice when he was doing something right because it just happened automatically and then the play moved on.
All in all I was extremely impressed by Dmitry Sinitsyn. Since by all accounts he's still adjusting and learning the college game, I have a feeling that he will be dynamite and break out in a big way as early as playoff time or early next season. He has a great blend of size, skill, and an awareness of the game that is absolutely uncanny for someone of his age and playing history.
He doesn't look at all like someone who had to take a year off from competitive playing because of visa issues; instead he looks like a very solid player who can develop nicely. If he continues to work hard and hone his skills, he will make Joe Nieuwendyk look like a genius for trading up to get him, and will become an important part of the Dallas Stars franchise in the next few years.