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.
THE SCOUTING REPORTS
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:
Jakob Chychrun (’16) is a beast. Huge physical force who can wheel and shoot. Assistant Captain for Sarnia at 16. Top 3 NHL pick. @ISShockey
— Matt Grainda (@graindaiv) February 22, 2015
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:
Feelings around NHL teams in October: Chychrun clear top d in draft.
January: 50-50 between him and Juolevi
March: Probably Juolevi is 1.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) March 21, 2016
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.
NUMBERS/FIT FOR THE FLAMES
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:
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.