Why defenseman Anton Silayev could entice Blackhawks with No. 2 pick (2024)

Ivan Demidov and Artyom Levshunov appear the most likely players the Chicago Blackhawks could draft with the No. 2 pick in the NHL Draft, but there are other possibilities.

One of them is Anton Silayev. If the Blackhawks want to draft a defenseman and put a bow on that group, Silayev checks a lot of the same boxes as Levshunov. Silayev has size at 6-foot-7 and 207 pounds, skates well and is projected by some to be a No. 1 defenseman.

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From everything I’ve heard, Silayev seems to at least be in the conversation for the Blackhawks. As I’ve already profiled Demidov and Levshunov, we’ll focus on Silayev.

What to know about Anton Silayev

Like Demidov, Silayev, who turned 18 in April, is from Russia. Unlike Demidov, Silayev played almost the entire season in the KHL. He opened a lot of eyes about his NHL potential this season by playing a significant role for Torpedo in the KHL, averaging nearly 15 minutes a game in the regular season and more than 16 minutes in the playoffs.

Silayev skates well, especially for his size, can kill plays with his reach and isn’t shy about being physical and using his body. He showed offensive potential, especially playing on the second power play, but there are those who question how much he’ll produce in the NHL. That said, his 11 points this season were the most by an under-18 player in league history. He finished with three goals and eight assists in 63 games this season.

Silayev is a left-handed shot, but he played a lot on his right side this season. He likely could play either in the NHL.

Where The Athletic ranks Silayev

Corey Pronman has Silayev fifth in his latest rankings.

Pronman wrote, “His offensive play won’t blow you away, but it’s good enough to move pucks in the NHL. He can provide enough with the puck to go with elite defensive play to be a potential No. 1 defenseman one day.”

It’s also worth reading this profile by Pronman on Silayev. One scout compared Silayev to Victor Hedman in that story.

Scott Wheeler has Silayev 10th in his latest rankings.

Wheeler wrote, “Many scouts think he’s the top D prospect in the draft. I’m still partial to Levshunov, but I see the appeal of Silayev and the projection some are making on him (though I don’t think he has as much offense as some thought he might out of the gate this season, largely due to average smarts). His upside is obviously extremely high though, especially if he can get stronger (without losing his mobility) and continue to develop his offensive game. I’m just not sure I’d bet on it in the top five (which at points this season I would have).”

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KHL scout’s take

A Russia-based NHL scout provided a scouting report of Silayev. The scout was granted anonymity because they aren’t authorized by their NHL team to be interviewed about Silayev.

“I’m not really high on him because he misses offense,” the scout said. “He’s an NHL-caliber talent who could become a very good defender with his size and great skating abilities, good gap control, good compete level, he uses his body, not shy of contact, protects the crease, he reads plays defensively well. But his hockey sense overall and puck skills are under question, for sure, and he admits that, by the way. I would compare him with Adam Larsson, but Larsson was better offensively at his age.

“It’s an important thing: He (has) a great personality, very mature as a person. He’s like 25, not 18, (an) absolute pro with great habits, very dedicated, (a) great partner. You rarely see that stuff in a junior. So I’m sure he will have a great career, but he’s not Hedman, that’s for sure.”

Q&A with Torpedo coach Igor Larionov

Questions and answers have been slightly edited for clarity and style.

You obviously played Anton a lot at an early age. What did you see in him to trust him so much?

The story goes back to the season before, my first season as a head coach. I usually like to bring some young players because we got the lineup, the roster to play the game, and we got like four or five players who are not in the lineup. To just skate five of them doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes I like to bring in some young guys from the junior team, like four or five, to have a group of maybe like eight to 10 players. It’s going to be more fun than going around cones and doing some stupid stuff. For the young people, it’s nice to kind of measure them against the men.

When they brought Silayev for a couple of sessions, I was kind of watching him and seeing a big, lanky kid but also very agile and skating well and using his stick properly. And I like the kid, I was going to use him when he was 16, actually, but in Russian rules, you’re not allowed to use an underager in the KHL. For me, it doesn’t make any sense because you look at Barcelona, for example, and they got like 16-year-old kids playing all the whole season and we can’t do that. Anyway, we finished that season, and I told him I looked forward to having him at the Torpedo camp for the second season I’m in charge. When we started the camp, the junior team coach asked me, how long are you going to keep him? One week, two weeks. I said, no, no, no, I’m going to f—— keep him the whole year. When we started camp, after two weeks and I’ve seen him on the ice every single day with the main team, I can see that the kid can play.

I was trying to find him the right player, mentor, next to him. But I didn’t have any privilege to have a guy. Like I usually use as an example, Ryan Suter with Miro Heiskanen, so a guy who is 40 years old and Miro right now 24, but to at least have a guy who can help. I can tell you, (that) as soon as we (started) doing some stuff, like the drills and exhibition games, I liked what I saw. I liked it because he was actually outplaying the older boys on the defense. I knew you got to be patient. I knew there were going to be some mistakes. I knew there was going to be some fatigue because the kid is only 17 playing his first season. But at the same time, I said we can go through these kinds of pains and failures and this and that. You know what? We’re going to give him a chance. And he played outstanding, until he started getting tired a little bit because at the age of 17, you’re playing like 17, 18 minutes, you’re playing the power play on the second unit, you’re playing against big boys. But in general, I thought he did very well and he was improving. At some point during the year, I was trying to get him some time off, but I didn’t have enough people. I saw him, he was getting tired, he was actually starting to make more mistakes, but he was still better than other players who were older than him by five, 10, 12 years. That’s how he ended up last season. In the playoffs, I thought he was our best defenseman.

17-year-old Anton Silayev says 'Hi' 👋 pic.twitter.com/VKNqYBx9GG

— KHL (@khl_eng) December 20, 2023

I watched some of those playoff games. What has stood out to you about his strengths and his potential as a defenseman?

When you’re dealing with a 17-year-old, you kind of realize as much as you want to win, you got to be prepared to suffer, too. You don’t want to put a lid on the kid and tell him get the puck out and keep it simple and this and that. You don’t want to kill that confidence in him to go look around, make a play, hold onto (the) puck, protect the puck, shield the puck and make a backhand pass, for example, to the middle. But it requires patience and it also requires experience, which he doesn’t have yet. He’s only 17. To me, at his size and his mobility, you realize he’s also only a kid. He’s got to fill out with the muscles. I’m not talking about the body weight, but the strength. He knows that. This summer he’s going to get stronger, obviously, and he’s going to be a much better player.

Most of the people have been asking me, do you think he’s smart enough to be like an offensive threat? I could see a lot of little things during the year that he could stuff that you’re kind of like, wow. But it’s only like little episodes of where he’s making those plays. You want to let the kid go and try. If he makes any mistakes, I can correct that, and we did that during the year. … It’s a process to get to that level, but you’re going to get there.

What type of NHL player do you think he can make? Do you see him as a shutdown defenseman? How high of a ceiling do you see for him?

With a shutdown defenseman, you can say a seven-time Norris Trophy player like Nicklas Lidstrom, was he a shutdown defenseman? He was like all-around. But Scotty (Bowman) used him as a shutdown because he has so many good features in his game because it’s really hard to play against Nick, but it’s so enjoyable to play with him as a teammate. I played against Nick during the practices in Detroit. But when you’re on the ice with him, you want to be on the ice with him because he knows the little details to make a little play, how to join the rush, how to get the puck to an open area. He was a solid, solid defenseman, not flashy, but incredibly smart. That’s what I want to do with Silayev.

At the beginning of the year last year, I told a lot of the guys, but they don’t remember, I compare No. 21 on the jersey, (to) legendary Swede, Börje (Salming), (a) good friend of mine. I told Silayev (to) just watch a YouTube video of Börje operating, skating, moving the puck, shooting the puck and joining the rush and playing smart, blocking the shots. All those little details, you kind of want to tell the kid, when you have so much information, you want to be able to absorb that, but sometimes, you need time to settle down all this information in your head and then you start to bring those parts of the game to the real game on the ice. Basically, he can do a lot of things, but I don’t want to put so much pressure or so much expectation on a 17- or 18-year-old kid, still young. It’s a learning process. He’s a good kid.

Video review

One of the biggest challenges for a player of Silayev’s size is keeping up with the play especially when it becomes unpredictable. In this clip, the puck is bouncing and the opponent is charging toward Silayev and he stays calm, keeps his positioning and finally breaks up the play.

This is another example of his mobility and ability to read the play.

Here, he demonstrates how he can be aggressive and kill a play.

This is another example of him defending in transition.

This is an example of his offensive ability and Larionov giving him the freedom to be creative. His pass doesn’t get through, but you can see how he’s thinking the game.

Where Silayev could fit with the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have a lot of promising defensem*n in their system, but the question is whether they have a legitimate No. 1 defenseman who can play in all situations and at all times of the game. Alex Vlasic may be that, but he’s more of a shutdown defenseman. Kevin Korchinski leans more on the offensive side. Wyatt Kaiser, Ethan Del Mastro and Nolan Allan, among others, have their strengths, too, but they’re probably further down the depth chart. Silayev has some traits similar to Vlasic, but Silayev is further along than Vlasic at this age. If Silayev pans out as Larionov expects, his ceiling could be even higher.

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Silayev’s NHL timeline

All indications are Silayev will play out his KHL contract, which ends after the 2025-26 season, and come to the NHL. It certainly doesn’t sound like Torpedo is going to stand in his way.

“I cannot control the dream or destination for anybody,” Larionov said. “We got the freedom to choose where you want to play. I’m not going to be in the way to call them back. I can tell you a story. For example, once again, Miro Heiskanen, Dallas defenseman, when I saw him for the first time, he was 15. I told Kenny Holland in Detroit to send scouts to watch him play. Then Jimmy Nill from Dallas grabbed him third overall. Jimmy asked me, do you think he should play this year? I said, no, no, no, he’s too skinny, too young, too fragile. You can have him at the development camp, the September camp, but then send him back home to his mom and dad and get mature and play a lot of hockey instead of sending him right to the American League or NHL. To me, players got the dream and players got the desire and the work ethic. This guy should be playing the best against the best in the best league. That’s my point.”

(Photo: Maksim Konstantinov / Getty Images)

Why defenseman Anton Silayev could entice Blackhawks with No. 2 pick (2024)
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