The 18-year-old Sinitsyn, a seventh-round pick (183rd overall) in this summer’s draft, is a product of the Dallas Stars Elite Under-16 team, playing for the squad in 2010-11.
“My old friend was here in Dallas playing and he invited me to try out for the team,” Sinitsyn explained when asked how a Russian kid ended up playing hockey in Dallas as a 16-year-old.
Eric Silverman, a coach with the Dallas Stars Elite Hockey Club and an instructor at the recent Stars development camp, helped bring the young Russian over for a tryout two years ago.
“I’ve got a friend, a Russian guy, who obviously has relationships in Russia. He ended up meeting Dmitry and talked about getting out of Russia and coming to North America.” Silverman said. “The guy knew our program, that we had success moving people on and that we played a good schedule nationally. He wanted to know if I wanted to get to know a Russian kid.”
So, Sinitsyn came over to North America and skated with the Dallas Stars Elites for a month or so to check things out. He liked what he saw and a few months later, he would be playing for the Dallas Stars Elite U-16 team.
“I didn’t know if I could make it or not,” Sinitsyn said. “I tried what I could, and I made it. I played pretty good, and that’s what happened.”
Sinitsyn was better than pretty good.
“He was so talented that I actually suggested to the family that we go try to find a higher level for him,” Silverman said. “I thought he was good enough to play with older kids, maybe go play junior. His family was pretty adamant about not wanting to rush him. He’s going to be moving across the world, living in a place he’s never lived, new culture, new style of hockey. They wanted him where he could adjust socially, mentally, physically with kids his own age, where it is not too much too soon. Obviously, I wasn’t going to say no.”
There was an adjustment period for Sinitsyn, but he finally caught on and ended up leading the team in scoring with 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists) in 57 games. His performance didn’t go unnoticed. It’s easy to see why.
“He’s a big kid with some really good puck skills and has a good feel for the offensive part of the game,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Player Personnel.
There’s more to Sinitsyn than just hockey ability. Talk to him and talk to those who know him, and you soon find out he’s a likeable, intriguing young man.
“He’s a great teammate. Kids loved him. He fit in well,” said Silverman. “He’s very unselfish. Always put the team first. He was our best player by a mile, and a lot of times, kids like that will treat their teammates not so good. He was not like that.”
Sinitsyn is a bright kid who speaks three languages – Russian, Spanish and English. He started studying Spanish in the first grade and then delved into English in the fifth grade.
He can be funny, too, and isn’t afraid to poke some fun at himself. Sinitsyn explained his struggles writing papers in English.
“Sometimes I write, then read it over and it just makes no sense,” he said with a chuckle.
He’s a thinker, who likes to make sure all his options are covered. Silverman told a story about a conversation he once had with the young Russian.
“These kids are hockey fanatics. All these kids want to do is eat, sleep and think hockey. This is a different kid,” Silverman said. “We explained the major junior and college paths, and asked what he wanted to do. He said, ‘You know what? If I like it over here in North America and hockey doesn’t work out for me and I have an education, I might be able to get a good job.’
“Who thinks of that as a kid? There’s a level of maturity there. He actually wanted to go to school and learn. He’s a mature kid, and very smart. Very, very smart.”
Sinitsyn’s hockey development path appeared to be leading him to the USHL, which would still leave the door open for playing college hockey and getting that education. He was selected by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2011 USHL Draft, but then things got derailed. Green Bay was over its limit for foreign players and traded Sinitsyn to the Sioux Falls Stampede, which then ran into problems getting a visa for Sinitsyn.
“I felt bad for him,” said Silverman. “He was in Russia for four or five months doing nothing while he should have been playing.”
Sinitsyn finally got a break this past January, when the University of Massachusetts at Lowell entered the picture, resolved the visa issue and added him to the roster.
“I was just waiting for something to happen, and then UMass Lowell got me a student visa,” Sinitsyn said. “The USHL kept sending me the tourist one.”
Sinitsyn didn’t play for the River Hawks this past season. He was a redshirt freshman, and that meant this past season was a lost one as far as playing hockey. But he did get things rolling on the education front.
“I took some social science, pre-calculus, some English and some Spanish,” said Sinitsyn, who hasn’t declared a major as of yet.
Even though he hadn’t played hockey competitively for more than a year, he was still on the radar for this summer’s draft. The Stars, familiar with him from his time playing for Silverman and the Dallas Stars Elite, decided to take a stab at him with their seventh round pick.
“It was really a surprise because nobody had seen me play for so long,” said Sinitsyn.
There are a lot of people who see Sinitsyn as a possible late-round steal, and that includes Silverman.
“If he would have played, he wouldn’t have been around in the seventh round,” he said. “It worked out well for the Stars, I think.”
The 6-2, 200 pound defenseman, who practiced with UMass Lowell last season, will make his college debut with the River Hawks in 2012-13.
“He still has a long way to go,” said Silverman. “The last game he played was when he was 16, and you look at these other kids who have been playing at such tremendous levels. At this age, each year of development is so vital. He lost a year of development, but I am confident that he’ll go in next year and figure it out. The tools are there. He’s a great kid.”
And Sinitsyn can’t wait to get going.
“I’m excited to play a game for Lowell. We’ll see what I still can do,” he said. “I’ve been practicing with them all the time. I feel like I can do it.”
Quotable Dmitry Sinitsyn
On what it was like coming to Dallas to play hockey: “I couldn’t imagine there was ice here. It was really hot. I liked it because it was like ten days of winter for the whole year.”
On the player he likes to model his game after: “I could say I want to play like Viacheslav Fetisov, but that’s a pretty high (goal). I’ll try. I’ll try to do what I can.”
On what he needs to work on and his strengths: “I need to work on my foot speed, moving my feet faster. I move with long strides, and people say you have to explode. I have to work on that. My hands are not that bad. I can pass, shoot. Not the best, but I can do it.”