Flames First Round Targets 2016: Jakob Chychrun

Look, this video is here because his last name is pronounced “Chick-rin.” Get it? It’s not funny. Go away.

Lately, Flames nation has been abuzz with talk of the many eligible forward prospects that may await the Flames at sixth overall. However, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding the top defenceman in this draft. Heading into the season many had penciled in Jakob Chychrun, only to change their minds during the year. Let’s dive into what kind of player Chychrun is and whether or not he’d be a good fit with the Flames.


First things first: Jakob Chychrun was born in Boca Raton, Florida. That’s not a place known for people being born, to be honest, so that is something that sticks out right away. Again, Chychrun wasn’t born over Boca Raton airspace en route to like, Wheatdiggersville, Saskatchewan, he grew up in Florida and played hockey there until he was 13, in the same Florida junior program that produced fellow hard-to-spell player Shayne Gostisbehere.

For his bantam hockey, he moved to Detroit to play with a club called, and I am not joking here, the totally real and very prestigious Little Caesars Hockey Club. It was there that Chychrun started to make a name for himself and he even captured the attention of a USHL club before some red-tape forced him to bolt north of the 49th. Here’s the Hockey’s Future article from 2014 detailing these events:

At the end of 2013, Chychrun was drafted in the 10th round, 144th overall, by the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. Even though Chychrun had already tried out and made the Phantoms, he faced a critical obstacle. USA Hockey had recently implemented a new rule requiring 15-year-olds to receive a special exemption to play junior hockey. Chychrun’s request was denied. The process took long enough that by the time the decision was made, most of Chychrun’s options had already closed and he was left without a team to play for at the start of the 2013-14 season. It was at this moment that the Toronto Jr. Canadiens seized the opportunity to add a player of Chychrun’s caliber to their organization and offered him a spot on their Minor Midget AAA team if he would move north to Ontario.

It’s not all bad news for Chychrun because he ended up being a number one overall selection in the 2014 Bantam Draft and had a really solid rookie season, putting up 33 points in 42 games for the Sarnia Sting. Throughout 2015, it seemed like Chychrun was a sure-fire top three pick in the 2016 draft: 

Looking ahead into the 2016 draft from 2015, it seemed all but certain that Chychrun would be in the top grouping of 2016 draft eligibles that featured Auston Matthews and Jesse Puljujarvi. For example, Future Considerations had Chychrun at number two overall in their initial 2016 draft rankings. Chychrun’s mix of size, skill, and speed from the back-end had many drooling over his NHL potential. But, alas, things change and though all consider Chychrun a very good prospect, he has fallen completely out of the top three and out of the top five in many draft rankings.

After a sophomore season that saw him score 49 points in 62 games for the Sting, a little bit of the shine has come off of Chychrun, with many openly questioning whether or not he’ll even be the first defenceman taken in the draft:

Scouts seem to be ambivalent about Chychrun’s draft spot compared to fellow OHL blueliner Olli Juolevi, whose stock has risen dramatically in the past six months or so. Here’s what Craig Smith at Hockey Prospectus had to say about Chychrun’s draft spot back in January:

There will be a lot of talk between scouts, media and fans as the 2016 draft approaches questioning the overall ranking of this uncontested top defender. Where does he fall versus the plethora of forwards that are available? In comparing him against Olli Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev, Chychrun is the most complete player of the three. Juolevi made a significant push forward during the past World Junior Championship. The smooth skating Finn put up several points and impressed several scouts. The London Knights top defender does not have the physical ability, overall hockey sense, or shooting ability that Chychrun holsters. Sergachev is as good or maybe better when rushing up the ice and driving towards the net. Again he loses out in sense and shooting. 

A percentage of NHL general managers still value family trees and bloodlines as an important measurable of a potential prospect. He is the son of Jeff Chychrun and the nephew of Luke Richardson; he is a second generation player that shows his maturity on and off the ice. Richardson and his nephew work together in raising awareness for mental illness alongside of the Do It for Daron Foundation. 

These intangibles may push a team to move Chychrun up a slot or two on an organization’s big board.
So where does the projection lie? Can his potential be reached? At least one more year of junior hockey will serve Chychrun well. He will need to work on his defensive play, both one versus one and coverage once established in the zone. His flat-footed stance when skating backwards also needs correction or he will get blown by at the pro level. If a team decides to bring him into the NHL as an 18 year old it could significantly drop the ceiling for this highlight reel player. With the right development path it’s within reach for the offensively gifted point man to see top pairing minutes.

There seems to be no doubt that Chychrun has some pretty impressive skills on offense but seems to not exactly be a complete player in his own zone. This is hardly breaking news for teenaged defencemen but it certainly makes people uneasy about spending a top 10 pick on a player with those kinds of holes in his game.


It seems as though ‘drafting according to need’ is firmly classified as draft heresy, with nearly everyone screaming BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE with neophyte zeal. So, the question facing the Flames at number six overall is: Is Jakob Chychrun the best player available? The answer to this question seems a little more complicated than: “No, the draft rankings have him lower.” 

In a Sportsnet story comparing Juolevi and Chychrun from March, the matter of “team fit” was discussed:

Juolevi’s skill set and situation is an almost perfect counterpoint to Chychrun’s. Said one NHL scouting director: “Chychrun has all the tools, great skating, great shot, size, but you keep waiting for him to make plays and you’re left wanting more. Maybe the team is a bit of a factor. Maybe Chychrun would look different if he were playing with [a stronger team in London]. And maybe there’s a bit of hype to it—we heard about Chychrun before he played in the OHL. We’ve been seeing him for two years. He doesn’t make the Canadian team [for the WJC]. Maybe we’re just looking to pick him apart more.”

I think this is a very interesting point. Though Sarnia had a pretty darn good season of their own, winning their division before losing in the first round of the OHL playoffs, they certainly were not the high-powered London Knights, who vaporized the OHL this season. Furthermore, it is possible that Chychrun’s high profile, stemming from his number one overall selection in the OHL bantam draft led many to expect Ekbladian things from him.

In any event, Chychrun’s shot totals are real good, even when compared to the other two top OHL defencemen Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev: 


Thanks to OHL.Prospect-stats.com for the info, they explain the ‘Goals Created’ metric here.

As you can see, Chychrun leads all OHL draft eligible defenders in shots and outperforms Juolevi, but not Sergachev, in terms of primary points (in five more games, that is). I suppose the point is that in terms of basic numbers, Juolevi didn’t massively outperform Chychrun and it is possible that Juolevi’s numbers may be inflated given that he was playing on the OHL’s version of the Monstars this season. 

However, none of this matters if you are dead set against the Flames drafting a defenceman. If you believe that Alex Nylander or Pierre-Luc Dubois are far superior options, then this likely is a moot point. However, Chychrun’s story is intriguing and I can’t shake the feeling that whoever does end up drafting him will end up with a very good NHL defenceman. The reasons for his ‘fall’ seem tenuous at best.  

As many reports have noted, Chychrun, like almost all other non-Sean Monahans at sixth overall, will be returning to junior for another season. It is reasonable to suggest that Chychrun is, at best, two years away from the NHL and that would be if he tears it up next season in Sarnia. Saying intelligent things about the Flames defensive corps one year to the next has proven to be an exceptionally difficult task, so looking two years down the line is even more of a fool’s errand. So, let’s stop penciling in Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson into next year’s starting lineup.

The task that lays before the Flames is figuring out whether or not Chychrun is indeed the best option available to them at sixth overall, despite the fact that they may have other names in the pipeline. If nothing else, I hope this little primer will dampen your homicidal rage if the Flames call Chychrun’s name at sixth overall. 

  • madjam

    Chychrun has a very high work ethic and is a fitness freak . Built like a brick … . Ran away with the combines at Propects game . Already ahead of Ekblad at this stage and very likely to continue . Some even think he might be in mold of Doughty . Strong in all 3 areas of ice , and a top notch skater and shot to boot . Sarnia not a strong team like the loaded team Juolevi plays on in London . He should be cream of the defenseman this year and is closer to being a starter in NHL next year than one might normally think . He’d be a steal at 6 .

  • BurningSensation

    No mention of the shoulder injury he had?

    His splits, 1st half vs 2nd show a ppg+ guy after the shoulder has a chance to heal.

    I’m sold on him, and if the Flames can get him at 6 I’m ecstatic.

  • freethe flames

    So much depends on what happens ahead of our pick. I think if Dubious is available if not I said a long time ago I would not be surprised if the Flames picked a defender; which one I am not sure. All of the top three bring different things and would add to our total prospect pool.

  • Baalzamon
    1. Auston Matthews
    2. Patrik Laine
    3. Jesse Puljujarvi
    4. Alexander Nylander
    5. Jakob Chychrun
    6. Matthew Tkachuk
    7. Pierre-Luc Dubois
    8. Olli Juolevi
    9. Clayton Keller
    10. Mikhail Sergachev
    • KiLLKiND

      I lie your list mine is somewhat similar if I was picking for the Flames

      1.Auston Matthews
      2.Patrik Laine
      3.Jesse Puljujarvi
      4.Alexander Nylander
      5.Jakob Chychrun
      6.Clayton Keller
      7.Pierre-Luc Dubois
      8.Matthew Tkachuk
      9.Mikhail Sergechev
      10.Olli Juolevi
      11.Tyson Jost

      My rankings I tried to factor out the size and focus more on skill, hockey IQ, work ethic. I included 11 because I would be fine with any of the above, the differences between the skill level of thee players in the top 10 are all amazing this year. While it was nothing like last year this year seems to have players that are all around Bennett’s level all the throughout the top 10 this year.

      I have Keller at 6 and Jost at 11 though I was very tempted to have Jost each a little higher than what they currently are. Keller came 10 points short of the record Matthews set last year in the USHL, and sounds to be far more dynamic and game changing than PLD. The biggest risk with Keller is the NCAA factor which means he could choose his team after 4 years (No way he stays 4 years at university).

      Olli Juolevi is a very great defenceman but from everything I’ve read or watched the reason for him to be taken before Chychrun is they expected more out of Chychrun this year. That is a horrible reason to not take one of highest hockey IQ’s with a workhorse mentality. Mikhail Sergachev sounds like he has a stronger overall game and can bring more to the table than Juolevi, consistency is what most scouts need him to improve on. I take consistency with a grain of salt as once these kids get drafted their NHL teams who spend millions every year getting the best training, nutrients and medical staff possible for these players to perform at their peak all season long.

      Tkachuk is kinda scary to draft so high with such low primary point% and even strength points % especially with who his linemates are. Yes he does play everything right and can keep up with those two yet. He hates losing more than he loves winning and ups his game in the playoffs. Yet when I watch him play I can’t help but notice Marner and Dvorak are absolutely driving the play. I like him a lot as a player yet I couldn’t bet such a high draft pick on a kid I don’t think would be this high without his linemates.

      Nylander I initially had lower on my rankings yet the more I learned about him and watched him play I can’t help but feel he has by far the most skill. Including Laine and Matthews when Nylander has the puck on his stick he is the only one that can do Gaudreau like moves. Laine and Matthews are more complete packages, but Nylander is right there in terms of skill and his hockey IQ is amazing. I feel his game will translate amazingly well to the NHL as he like Gaudreau can simply outmaneuver his bigger slower oppenents. PLD, Tkachuk, Chychrun are all more NHL ready simply because of their size but if we are drafting for who will be the best in the long term you have to take Nylander.
      Here is the most recent draft ranking where NYlander has taken quite a fall, http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/juniors/sportsnets-final-top-30-2016-nhl-draft-prospects/ and here is ISS where Nylander is at 4http://www.isshockey.com/iss-top-30/.

      • Baalzamon

        My only issue with Keller is he played for the USNTDP. If he had posted those results (or similar ones) on a real USHL team, he’d be much higher on my list.

        USNTDP results are often wonky, and really hard to project. For example, Bill Arnold and Dylan Larkin posted virtually identical results when they played. Granted, Arnold played four years earlier, but they were both just fourth in team scoring. But Larkin went on to a 40 point Freshman season in College, then a 45 point NHL debut. Arnold is a third liner in the AHL.

        One of the guys who outscored Larkin was Alex Tuch, who is merely a decent prospect. Meanwhile Arnold out produced NHLers like Jason Zucker and Nick Shore (though granted, the comparison is only really workable in the USHL portion of their season).

        • KiLLKiND

          That is a fair point I really wish he had played in a different league yet you can’t deny that he has done exceptionally well in international play as well. International play is where we can really judge players as those who excel in international play are excelling against the best from each country.

          “Led Team USA in scoring with 107 points in 62 games…Was top American scorer at 2016 IIHF under-18 world championship with 14 points in seven games…Was named to Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2016 World Junior Championship but was later cut…Led U18 Five nations Tournament in scoring with five goals and seven assists in four games, leading the Americans to a 4-0 mark…His 20 points in his first 10 games of the season is second only to Jack Eichel’s 24 in 10, set in 2013…Was named to Team Plante for the 2015 CCM All-American Prospects Game, where he had two shots on goal and went 8-for-13 on faceoffs…2014-15: Registered four goals and 11 assists in eight games as team USA won the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF U18 World Championship…Finished fourth on U18 team in points-per-game (1.44) with nine goals and 14 assists in 16 games after leading the U17 squad in scoring with 59 points in 45 games…Had two assists in four games as Team USA finished in second place at the U17 Five Nations in Dmytrov, Russia…Named to All-Tournament team after he led 2014 World U17 Hockey Challenge in scoring with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in six games as the Americans finished second…Registered tournament-best eight points (three goals, five assists) in four games as Team USA finished second at the U17 Four Nations in Ann Arbor, MI…2013-14: Led Shattuck St. Mary’s program in scoring with 36 goals and 41 assists in 51 games.”

          The quote I have taken is directly from http://www.thedraftanalyst.com/prospects/clayton-keller/ because I know many will not visit but Keller has an amazing history of dominating international play. This kid can light it up and it might even be that because of the league he is in people are discrediting him or because of his size. Either way he is another high skilled, high hockey IQ player. Bonus with Keller we get a natural centre who if needed can be converted to wing. Also don’t forget Kyle Connor who was in the same league last year but is absolutely tearing up the NCAA now, he wasn’t even supposed to be as good as Keller appears to be.

    • capcurago

      I really like trading back this year.

      First, add Brown and Jost, those guys have a 50/50 shot of being really good NHLers at a minimum.

      Then, add McLeod (can’t miss RHS depth player is not a bad piece to add at the draft, especially one with so much speed). Then, add McAvoy, Jones, Bean and Fabbro, all guys that can upset Mocks with their talent and skill sets.

      You really get a feel for how deep the mid-first is this year. That’s 17 names total.

      I’d like to see us trade out of our cap-constraints. I could see Brown being a great add for the right team like Carolina.

      I could also see Nylander falling to around 11/12/13 if everything fell right (for us).


      Cgy: Raymond, Bouma and 6
      Car: 13

      Interest people? Certainly would open up enough space to get Varlamov or Fleury and trading 13 for Vasilevsky or Andersson is a bit more palatable (although I wouldn’t do it; I like the talent at 13)

      • Stan

        Um, are you kidding me? Yes Raymond has negative value, but Bouma still has value… Getting rid of Raymond for one year and gifting them Bouna to drop down 7 spots would be absolutely insane. I’ll take whatever your smoking.

        • capcurago

          I hear you. This kind of hatred for cap trades is common. It’s freaking painful. You pay so much to open up space and some players are just so bad that you can’t pay enough to get rid of a guy.

          The closest comp we have is the Laich/Winnick deal which cost WSH a second to open up two mil. It’s expensive.

          Some follow up thoughts.

          1) buyouts hurt your cap for twice as many years. Yes I want to be good next year but the year following is absolutely critical. We can have a no-anchors team that year which is huge for a chance at contending.

          2) the 13 spot will result in a good player this year and top five / top eight picks seem to get better bridge contracts and bigger deals because they are hyped. Is rather trust Tre to get a good piece from 13 based on who’s there at six.

          3) if you could add Engelland to my original deal it would be a steal for Cgy. Unprecedented type of trade though because it’s so hard to gain cap space.

      • Baalzamon

        I really like trading back this year.

        I really don’t.

        There are only two reasons to trade down: 1: you’re at the top of a ledge (irrelevant; the Flames are right at the bottom of the second ledge, even by Treliving’s estimation). 2: You’re targeting a specific player that you can all but guarantee will still be on the board (which is all but impossible, and you usually turn out to be wrong about the player anyway).

        Needless to say, I’m just about always against trading down. Just stay put and take the player you want IMO.

        • freethe flames

          The other reason you trade down is if you get immediate help and still keep a first rounder. If a team offered the Flames a legitimate top 6 rw who was still young and their first rounder, would you do it? Would you do the deal with the Ducks if they came to you with Andersen and their first rounder for number 6 overall?

          How much do you value this #6? Is it as valuable as Monahan at 6 or Bennett at 4?

          • SmellOfVictory

            I’d say it’s roughly as valuable as Monahan and Bennett picks were, yes. The top 3 in this draft are all above average for their draft position, and the following three forwards are nearly as good as the top three in a mediocre draft. Unless there’s some serious trickery going on, I think any of Tkachuk, Dubois, or Nylander are very nearly locks for top 6 forwards.

          • freethe flames

            I’m not as sold on Nylander or Tkachuk as I was on Bennett or Monny. Which is why if the right deal was there I would trade down but it would have to be something special.

            So in keeping with the theme of trading down; how about the 6th in a trade with Colorado for 10 and Pickard(some on this sight like him)

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Very good point about Bennett and Monahan. With those two it was more a concern of no other team picking them ahead of the Flames than doubts as to whether they deserved to be picked so highly in the first round.

            Were I the Flames GM, I would rate Juolevi and Chychrun ahead of Nylander and Tkachuk and would have no problem selecting a defenceman ahead of a forward.

          • supra steve

            All it takes is for one team in the top six picks to have a different evaluation of a single player…and one of your near locks to go top six ends up going 7th or later. Draft has never been predictable, not sure why anyone would think this year will be any different.

          • freethe flames

            Central Scouting released their combined rankings today. At two points according to them should be two goalies. I don’t thinks so. What is interesting would be were the various ledges are.

  • Juan Valdez

    Olli Juolevi is a better option if he’s still available. Jakob Chychrun might be the more physical player, but Juolevi has a higher hockey IQ and is more sound defensively.

    • KiLLKiND

      Please show a source saying Juolevi has a higher hockey IQ. I have read many scouting reports and not a single one agrees with that statement. They also do not say he has a better defensive game as both are noted that they both need to improve on their defensive zone work. Juolevi is more of a puck distributor than Chychrun and Chychrun has a better offensive game. Juolevi is also on London Knights where he can feed Marner, Tkachuk or Dvorak yet his point totals still leave you more to be desired. He does sound like a great player more in the mold of TJ Brodie, both are smooth skating, puck distributing, defencemen who don’t excel at any one area yet has a very complete game. We won’t be dissapointed with what he brings to the table yet I’m not sold on him as the top defenceman from this draft year.

      If we need to draft a D I say we make a package and get a pick in the 20 range and snag Sean Day, who should be in the top 5 yet has fallen from grace. I really like Day and believe that with his hockey IQ and defensive game that he will turn out to be better than Juolevi or Sergachev. Day already had his offensive game down in the OHL before this year as he was granted exceptional status and this year he spent honing his defensive skills. He had only 22 points this year but 36 the year before.

      Another D we could get for a package is Fabbro or Kye Clague though I prefer Fabbro.

  • Trevy

    I think Flames management would be a bit leary taking Nylander at #6, only for his lack of physicality. If they did so, they would certainly then need to surround these players (Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett and Nylander) with some protection for their respective lines, otherwise they’re going to get manhandled with the likes of LA and Anaheim.

    I do love Nylanders skill, but I’m guessing the Flames are keeping their fingers crossed that a Tkachuk or Dubois fall on their lap or they might be tempted to take Chychrun as what could be their most physical defenseman for the future. Having a plethora of quality defencemen is not a bad thing and can be very useful as possible trade chips in a package for the right young power forward in the future.

  • Backburner

    I think Chychrun is the best D man in this years draft, even though he’s fallen behind Juolevi.

    If the Flames pick him over Nylander I would be ok with that.

    Was Matt Pelech the last Defenseman the Flames drafted in the first round?

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    How many people watched the London game vs Brandon? Marner and Dvorak look head and shoulders above the rest.
    Tkachuk was ok and made a nice goalmouth pass but it’s the other 2 that stir the drink for London, and I did not see any physicality from Tkachuk tonight at the game.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Interesting point and one I have thought about d during these playoffs.

        Todd McLellan left the Sharks with many pundits claiming that he did a good job there and remained a very good coach. This surprised me because he did nothing in San Jose with what many called a stacked team.

        I’m not sure how well he coached in Edmonton this season, but in a results-driven league, his team was lacklustre.

        All this begs the question if Todd McLellan is actually a good NHL coach or not. I have suspected for a long time that he isn’t despite the experts shouting me down and telling me that I am nuts.

        Would the Sharks be one win away from the Stanley Cup finals if Todd McLellan were still the coach?

  • freethe flames

    BT is back and the Flames start meeting today to finalize their list; the discussions will be about whether or not the two guys from London have proven enough for the Flames to be sure about them at #6. After his trip to Russia BT must have a better picture of the Euro free agents and who might be available. The Flames need to add both skill and size to their top 6, find an NHL goalie and move some dead weight contracts. I would rather talk about that than give the Oiler fans something to talk about here.