Toronto Maple Leafs Find Hidden Gem in Kerby Rychel

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Its been nearly a month since the Toronto Maple Leafs made waves with off-the-board picks on the second day of the draft. One move from that day they deserve more credit for, though, is the trade for Kerby Rychel.

Rychel, the son of former NHL forward Warren Rychel, made headlines by asking for a trade because he was unhappy with his role and position on the Columbus Blue Jackets depth chart. For the Leafs to acquire Rychel, the 19th overall selection in the 2013 draft, it cost them defenceman Scott Harrington and a conditional draft pick. Harrington came over in the Phil Kessel trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hewas limited to just 17 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies where he scored a goal and two assists. Now what did the Leafs acquire in Rychel?

Leafs Find Hidden Gem in Kerby Rychel

The 6’1″, 214 lb left winger spent most of his junior career playing under his father’s watch, with the Windsor Spitfires. In 256 OHL games, Rychel put up 271 points, or 1.06 points a game which included a pair of 40 goal seasons. When drafted, Pierre McGuire raved about his all-around game and Rychel’s ability to hit and help the team rather than score consistently. In Rychel’s AHL stint, this showed. While not staggering, he put up 60 points including 18 goals in 88 games, or almost 0.7 points a game. In Columbus, Rychel was buried and played an energy role, so he wasn’t given a lot of special teams time. In brief stints with the Blue Jackets in a fourth line role, he put up nine points in 32 games.

Where does he slot in with the Leafs?

With a lack of NHL depth on the left wing and James van Riemsdyk filling the first line position, erring on the side of positivity Rychel may get a shot on the second line. More realistically, he will be slotted into the third line position. To project the role he will play, there’s a great opportunity for him to learn especially playing around van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov, two guys that play a solid two-way game similar to what management is expecting from Rychel.  With Nikita Soshnikov, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Auston Matthews projected down the right wing and centre, Rychel should be able to showcase some of his playmaking ability on each line, whether it be second, third or even fourth. Similar to last season with Columbus, besides pre-season there won’t be many special teams minutes given to him.

Scouting Reports

According to Hockey’s Future, Rychel possesses  “Solid, upper-end quality hands and has come a long way since first being drafted. His skating, once a liability, has improved allowing him to let his tactical and technical ability show.”

One point to Rychel’s game is a tendency to over-complicate plays. This includes entering the offensive zone, often trying to do too much and getting caught. This often causes a loss of possession and a chance going the other way. Defense is still not his strongest point, either. He has continued to work and evolve from the Spitfire who half-heartily back-checked, though. With bad defensive coverage comes penalties, which resulted in almost a penalty a game in his AHL stint last year.

What He Brings to Toronto

Rychel should be able to add to the Leafs in many ways. While not scoring consistently, he is streaky. He will find the net the hard way and often take hits and whacks to get near and in front of the net. While also having great hands to make plays in-tight. He can easily be moved up or down the lineup. The best aspects of his game are not always seen on the score sheet. Rychel generates energy, he will go into the corners and hit and cycle the puck. He keeps possession and battles hard for the puck, something the analytic guys will like. Think of Rychel as a slight step up in overall game from Komarov.

Rychel’s tendency to take stupid penalties should get worked out over time with Mike Babcock‘s guidance. Or it will be controlled through limited ice time like the Blue Jackets did. The Leafs have acquired a big middle-six forward, with professional experience and a decent all-around game. He can realistically contribute 10 goals and 30 points in his first season without setting the bar too high. 

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