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From the Stands

Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Hailing from Volgograd, in south Russia, Dimitri Samorukov is a long way from home. He moved to Guelph last season as the team’s top pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft and says he has found a second home in the Royal City. Drafted in the third round of the National Hockey League draft in June by the Edmonton Oilers, he has started to come into his own during this, his sophomore season with the Storm.

“He’s strong, he skates well, he moves the puck well and he has a bright future ahead of him,” said Storm GM and coach George Burnett. “I like his sense of humour, he’s a good teammate. Like everyone, when we try to do too much we get ourselves in trouble sometimes but he’s worked hard to get better.”

Last year was a trying year from the young Russian, moving to a new country, learning hockey in the best junior league in the world, all while attending school and learning a new language.

“I feel much more comfortable this year,” said the affable 18-year-old. “My English is much better and this year we have a better team. Guelph is a beautiful city and people have been good to me so it’s been the best time.”

Samorukov suited up in two games for the Russian junior team that toured Canada recently and played very well. That has led to hopes that he will be invited to play for his country at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo.

“I’ll be very happy if I get called to the (Russian) World Junior team but all I can do is keep working and play my game,” he said with a big smile. “It is always the best to play for the national team whenever you can. I would love to be called but can’t say whether it will happen because it’s not my choice.”

Burnett feels he has a good shot at making the prestigious club.

“I’m kind of counting on it and anticipating it. I know he had a good couple of games in the Canada-Russia series and we haven’t booked his flight home (for Christmas) yet,” he said with a smile.

“Sammy” as he’s called by his teammates, has been jumping into the rush a lot more this season looking to become more of a two-way defenceman.

“I know he’d like to score more, and we’ve never said he can’t be part of the offence, but he’s made some better decisions over the past few weeks,” said Burnett. “He’s a guy who can be a real good shutdown player because he skates and moves so well.  He’s very strong and competes and can play against the best players on the other team and I’m not sure he’s ever been in that role before. He kind of looked at me sideways one night when I said he was going to be playing against the other team’s top line but he’s handled it well.”

Samorukov is very popular with his teammates and was happy when the Storm drafted another Russian, Alexey Toropchenko, in the off-season.

“I’ve known him for like seven years so it’s pretty cool,” he said. “Last year I was (the only Russian player) so I was trying to learn English so it was hard at times, but now it’s more fun and we spend time together. We played against each other in Russia and now I show him around Guelph.”

From the Land of Oz….The Storm had a bounce back weekend taking two of three games against tough competition. They defeated Barrie, the top team in the east division, 5-4 in overtime thanks to two goals by rookie Cam Hillis. Then, with rookie netminder Nico Daws making 43 saves in only his second start of the season, they had an impressive 4-2 win in Owen Sound. Sunday the team made some key errors, notably a needlessly slew-footing major penalty by veteran Liam Hawel, that led to two London powerplay goals in a 5-1 win for the Knights. The Storm is back in action Friday when the host Erie.

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