Dmitry Osipov Making Giant Strides toward Offensive Development in the AHL and ECHL

Author: Clarence Paller, for
Date: Jan 10, 2018

Towering at 6’4 and weighing 229 pounds, 21-year-old defenseman, Dmitry Osipov has many of the attributes necessary to one day be an imposing force on the blue line for the Vegas Golden Knights. He plays a tough, hard-nosed, physical style of hockey and uses his powerful frame to clear players away from the front of the net, block shots, and deliver bone rattling hits. At the half-way mark of his first year of professional hockey where he has split time in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Chicago Wolves and in the ECHL with the Quad City Mallards, he is learning how to unleash his physical prowess and add an offensive punch to his game.

Osipov hails from Moscow, Russia and began playing hockey as a 7-year-old. At first it was just for fun but it didn’t take long for coaches to notice his potential.  “I had two coaches who told me that I should pursue a career in hockey and they were instrumental in my early development and getting me to the junior level,” said Osipov.  “They coached me until I was 16 before I came to North America.”  He also fondly remembered how his grandparents were major influences for him getting into hockey early on.  “Since day one my grandparents were really supportive, they took me to practices and embraced the fact that I loved playing hockey.”

While playing in Russia, Osipov recalls two occasions that really stood out for him. “The biggest one was the KHL draft combine. Another amazing memory was when I was 12 years old playing in Finland for a tournament with my junior team where we won first place.”

At 16 years old, Osipov faced the crossroads of choosing whether to stay and pursue his hockey career in Russia or play in North America. He explained his rationale behind choosing the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) route.  “I wanted to try something new. I had two offers at the time, one from the KHL draft and one from the CHL draft being selected by the Vancouver Giants. My agent said to me, ‘I won’t tell you what to do, you're going to do what you feel is right.  If you want to try something new, learn a new language, and a new style of hockey then you should go to North America. If you want to stay here and play in the MHL then that is a good option as well.’  I wanted to embrace the opportunity to meet different people, try a different style of hockey, and learn a new language and travel. I decided it would be good experience for me to come to North America. So far I think I made the right decision.”

Of course making such a decision at the age of 16 was not as straightforward as it appeared. “At the time it was hard to make the decision.  It's a big change being young and having to leave your home, family, and country. At that time, I couldn't speak English at all. I didn't even know much about the CHL or Canada. I didn't know anything about the Vancouver Giants or about the city of Vancouver. Looking back, I don't know if I was even old enough to leave home but I knew at some point I would have to do it. That is why I figured I might as well go for it now.”

Osipov played four seasons in the Western Hockey League, most of which with the Vancouver Giants and the latter half of his final year of junior in 2016-17 with the Brandon Wheat Kings. While the experience was tremendous and helped shape him into the player he is today, it didn’t come without trials and hard moments.

“It is tough to comment on my favorite memories from my junior career.  We made the playoffs in my first year with the team with Don Hay as our coach.  I remember scoring my first goal in the WHL and just scoring some goals that no one expected me to score. As for my time with the Brandon Wheat Kings, I just quietly played my game. I came to the team later in the season. What stood out from there were the last four games in the playoffs. I realized it was the final games of my junior career. Naturally, when something is ending it really stands out to you and you realize you are finishing one chapter.”

A couple weeks after being traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings, Osipov received a call from his agent, who informed him that the Vegas Golden Knights had invited him to their main camp prior to the start of the next season.  “I was all for it, I would go wherever and do whatever it takes to get into the NHL. I'm not even sure how Vegas noticed me but when I got the call I was very excited.”

Although Osipov didn’t make the opening day roster for the Golden Knights, attending their camp provided invaluable experience and fueled a burning desire to make the NHL. “The game was totally different especially just coming from junior. The play was more structured, everyone was very skilled, everyone knew what they were doing, and it made my playing style as a solid D-man easier because you can make the quick passes, set up plays, and breakout from your zone.”

“On the other hand, at the professional level, it is much harder having to compete with guys who are that are much faster and stronger.  The game is quicker and decisions are split second so there is no room for error.  What you notice is the huge jump in skill level, work ethic, and the fierce competition for your spot on the team. For example, on icings the races are much more intense.”

Osipov has thus far enjoyed his first season at the pro level and has made great strides in his development both on and off the ice from the advice of his coaches.  “I need to be a good teammate, have a good attitude and have a good work ethic. They tell me if I continue to do those things I will get my crack at making the NHL.  Judging by the feedback I have been receiving, this season has been going good. I did have to overcome some challenges like injury and being sent down.”

Although he began the season in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, Osipov was eventually reassigned to the Quad City Mallards of the ECHL, which was something he had not yet experienced in his young career.  “It is really hard to get sent down, it is one of the hardest things as a hockey player, and you feel you are not playing well enough or maybe you are doing something wrong. The key though is to think of it differently. Even when I got sent down the first time from Chicago I had to put it in perspective.  The guys there were older, their level of play was a little higher than mine. I knew I wouldn't get as much ice time as they did. When I was reassigned to the ECHL I knew I would get more ice time and that would help me in my development. There are a lot of great players in the ECHL, so it was a great place to work on the things I needed to improve on. I made the most of the situation and am now back in Chicago. You always have to find the positive in situations.”

Osipov has come a long way in his development towards being a complete hockey player and knows there is more to learn.  “Areas where I am working on my game are offensive plays, how to make everything quicker, jumping into the rush and knowing when to attack rather than hold back. Another area is puck skills and puck control. With my size and strength, having me charge and lead a rush will pose an offensive threat to the other team. The key for me is to grow my game from being a stay at home defenseman and be able to unleash the capabilities and attributes that I have. I need to be able to see and execute on the right moments and sensing these moments to get involved offensively.”

 “Playing offensively is one of biggest things for me. I like to play in the defensive posture but I need to get uncomfortable sometimes and recognize when to be offensive. I have to try to make some plays on the 3 on 2’s or in the offensive zone such as cycling the puck. Each player has their strengths that carried them this far but the key is at this level is that you have to become well rounded overall. This means breaking from comfort zones and developing into a more complete player. Since the start of the season I grew the most in the offensive zone but I am still developing that aspect of the game.”

Growing into a more offensive defenseman has seen Osipov mold his game from watching different NHLers depending on the style he is trying to emulate. “I used to model my game after Zdeno Chara.  I liked the way he played but at some point I started to model my game after Andrei Markov. It is always changing, as you learn new skills and grow as a hockey player you take components that you can model from other players’ games. When I was working on my defensive skills I looked to more defensive players.  Now that my focus has shifted, I learn from guys that follow that style of play like Bret Burns or P.K. Subban.

Osipov has shown steady progress throughout his first year at the pro level and feels the offensive aspect of his game will come. Off the ice, he is grateful for the help and support he has received from the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) as well as the front office staff of the Chicago Wolves and Quad City Mallards as he continues to adapt to North American culture and navigate through hockey’s top development systems.  He also credits his family, girlfriend Maria, his agent, and the fans for their continued support. With his resolve and continued hard work, bet on Osipov to be a heavy force patrolling the blue line for the Vegas Golden Knights in the near future.


Follow the author on twitter @Cpaller10


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