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Edit: Drafted 37th Overall by the Los Angeles Kings.
When Valentin Zykov was drafted in the second round of the CHL Import Draft by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar last summer, not many analysts paid much attention to the pick. A largely unknown and unhyped Russian player, it flew under the radar. When NHL Central Scouting put him as a C level skater in their first draft rankings (ie a late round pick), he really seemed to get brushed under the rug.
Then a funny thing happened. Zykov adjusted to the game relatively quickly, and he started scoring, and became a big part of the Drakkar playing winning hockey. As the season wore he played better and better, and had an incredible second half. He was rewarded by being named the QMJHL Rookie of the Year for his efforts. Now he’s continuing his great play in the QMJHL playoffs as the Drakkar have advanced to the QMJHL final, and even snapped Halifax Mooseheads 14 game playoff winning streak yesterday.
Born May 15 1995 — St.Petersburg, Russia
Height 6.01 — Weight 215 — Shoots Right
February Rank: 29
Zykov is a big forward (already listed at 6’1″ 215 lbs) who plays with a gritty edge and is developping into a potential power forward. He goes to the net very hard and knows what to do when he gets there. He has great hands in tight and can make slick moves, tip in shots, or bury rebounds. A natural goal scorer Zykov also has a strong wrist shot and quick release. Zykov also works extremely hard in the corners, winning board battles, and playing a gritty, physical game. Zykov is very strong on the puck and protects it extremely well in the cycle game. He uses his body to shield off checkers and is strong on the puck and rarely knocked off of it by contact. He does have some decent vision and passing skills and can set up teammates off the cycle, but his biggest strength is as a goal scorer.
Zykov’s skating is very unorthodox. His hunched over style means that his top end speed, and his acceleration are not as good as they could be and could use some work going forward. In particular his first few strides need improvement, as he needs to be quicker. He does however have good agility, and great balance and power that allow him to fight through checks and to drive to the front of the net with power. It is these skating issues that keep me from putting Zykov in the low teens in the rankings and force him to the bottom of the first round, as he has the other skills I’m looking for in a power forward.
Zykov plays a style reminiscent of Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings. Remember that this is a style comparison only. In terms of potential, its a bit of a boom or bust pick. If he can improve his skating, he can be an invaluable power forward in the NHL. He has the grit, size, and offensive skill necessary to achieve a high level of success, but it will be a bit of a project for an NHL team.
Check back tomorrow for our number 29 prospect.
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Main Photo Credit: Antoine Letarte, Wiki Commons, CC 3.0