During the University of Massachusetts-Lowell's final game against Colorado College earlier this season, defenseman Dmitry Sinitsyn yelled to fellow blueliner Jake Suter in the offensive zone.
Suter looked over at the young 18-year-old and could only wonder what on earth this red shirt freshman from Moscow, Russia was trying to tell him.
“I got back to the bench and said ‘What were you saying?’ Suter explained. “(Sinitsyn) said ‘I don’t know. I got excited and yelled Russian.’
“I’m learning all kinds of things,” Suter laughed.
Just as much as Suter and his teammates are learning from this 2012 seventh round draft pick (183rd overall) of the Dallas Stars they are also teaching this highly-skilled Russian defenseman a few things as he adjusts to the North American game.
Sinitsyn has spent the early part of the 2012-13 NCAA hockey season not only trying to adjust to a new culture and language, but he is also trying to get caught up to speed with the collegiate game after not playing in a competitive hockey game in over a year and a half.“
Everything is much faster,” Sinitsyn said. “Last game I played was at U-16 so it was pretty slow. I’m getting up to speed, but most of the kids I am playing against now are three or four years older than me.”
The six-foot-two inch, 200-pound defenseman burst onto the scene with the Dallas Stars U-16 team in 2010 and during his final season led the team with 11 goals and 20 assists in 36 games.
Sinitsyn, who had finished high school early, was slated to head off to the USHL before visa issues sent him back to Russia.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Sinitsyn said. “I was sitting there doing nothing in Moscow. I was skating and joking around with a puck, nothing special.”
However, Sinitsyn was able to acquire a student visa and chose to attend UMass-Lowell starting last January. The River Hawks decided to red shirt the freshman as there were only 10 games remaining in the season and they wanted the young man to focus on adjusting to the culture and getting situated said coach Norm Bazin.
“He’s a very bright boy,” said Bazin. “He is trilingual in Russian, Spanish and English. We are very proud. He is doing very well in school.”
Currently Sinitsyn is taking a variety of classes at UML such as Supporting the Universe and Spanish II. Though it comes as no surprise, the Russian’s hardest class is College Writing II.
“All the classes I am taking are in English, not in Russian obviously. I am not speaking my native language so it’s a little hard to communicate the way I want to,” Sinitsyn said. “I am trying to do what I can. It’s tough to write papers first of all, but otherwise it’s all good.”
The Moscow native’s command of the English language is better than some may expect, but it comes as no surprise how offensively gifted Sinitsyn is on the ice.
Sinitsyn has a strong slap shot from the blue line and has good offensive awareness when controlling the puck. He has the potential to one day quarterback the power-play but he also flashes solid defensive skills when on the penalty kill for the River Hawks. For now, the main thing for Sinitsyn is to work on his conditioning after spending so much time away from the ice.
“Because it’s such a high jump for me from U-16 to college the first thing is conditioning,” Sinitsyn said. “I’m still a little careful and (do) not (have) much confidence because the game is all new. I haven’t played in a while. I just have to improve my confidence and just get that feeling.”
Sinitsyn decided to enroll at UMass-Lowell primarily to continue his adjustment to the North American game, with the eventual goal of being able to suit up for the Dallas Stars in the future.
In Russia, Sinitsyn would play on rinks that were longer than the standard North American game. This resulted in dangerous offensive plays, more puck movement and risky 3-on-2 rushes. Now he is trying to adjust to a faster game in a smaller corridor.
“There is much more space (in Russia) and it’s real easy to avoid hits when there is much more skill and speed. So you have to play real careful,” Sinitsyn said. “That’s why I came here. The hockey is different and everything is much faster and smaller.”
Bazin believes this season will be a maturing process for his young but talented defender. The second year coach understands Sinitsyn is playing against older competition.
“He has a heavy shot, but finding an ability or growing more accustomed to changing his attacking lanes will be very important for him in order to create offense because right now I feel he is a little stagnant in the lanes,” Bazin said. “But that is a maturing process. You have to give the guy time. Some people play junior (hockey) for three years and this is really his junior experience in a sense.”
Suter has been Sinitsyn’s partner on the blue line most of the season and the 22-year-old agrees that the transition Sinitsyn is going through is certainly no easy task.
“It’s really hard for him because most guys are fully matured physically and mentally,” the sophomore said. “He is the same age as a guy that just graduated high school.”
Yet that hasn’t prevented Sinitsyn from making his mark, Suter quickly added, and he is only going to improve once his legs are back under him.
“He’s got such offensive upside and raw talent,” Suter said. “His potential is unbelievable with his age and he is playing against guys as old as 24 and 25 and he just turned 18. You can see the sky is the limit for him.”
Follow Justin Felisko at Twitter via @jfelisko