Arguably no player has been on the radar as a top pick for this year's NHL Draft longer than Jakob Chychrun. The first overall pick in the OHL Draft two years ago, Chychrun stepped into the league as a rookie and with his physically mature frame and smooth skating made a big impact on the blue line for the Sarnia Sting, making him one of the early front-runners to go first overall.
He started this year poised to battle Auston Matthews for the top overall pick, but as the rest of the field matured, they began to catch up to Chychrun. He's no longer considered a lock to go in the top two, or even top five, but Chychrun is still an outstanding prospect that will hear his name called very early in this year's NHL Draft.
Player: Jakob Chychrun
Team: Sarnia Sting(OHL)
Height: 6'2" Weight: 198 lbs.
Stats: 62 games, 11 goals, 38 assists, 49 points, +23
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 4th among North American skaters
What I Like:
Chychrun's best asset is his strong yet smooth skating ability. He moves well both straight line and laterally, and changes directions really well with smooth pivots. He doesn't do it often, but when he picks his spots, he has the explosive ability to jump into the rush. His skating ability is already pro level.
Chychrun's game is much more advanced on the defensive end than it is on the offensive end. He's a steady one-on-one defender that maintains good gaps and is difficult to beat because of his skating ability. His size and strength means that he rarely gets out-muscled for position. I also think he shows really good awareness when defending off the puck.
-Handles the puck smoothly
Chychrun has really soft hands for a big defenseman. He's a good stickhandler and has the ability to finesse saucer passes into tight areas. He's smart and reliable with the puck on his stick.
Chychrun served as an alternate captain for Sarnia both years that he was there. He also has a reputation for being extremely well-spoken both during the Combine interview process and with the media. His professional attitude should be a positive for him throughout his career.
What I Don't Like:
-Limited offensive upside
The one thing Chychrun seems to lack is elite offensive instincts. He doesn't quite have the ability to think a step or two ahead of the play and create offense out of nothing. He's solid and does everything he needs to do, but it never quite feels like he's taking over the game because he just doesn't create much.
-Close to ceiling
Chychrun shows signs of being a classic "early developer": the son of a former NHLer and a kid that was huge and very physically developed at a young age. That's not terrible because he's already a very elite player, but it suggests that what we're seeing now is pretty close to what we're going to get from him in the long-term. The likelihood of him taking a big step in development to become a number one defenseman at the NHL level is lower with him than it is with some of the other top defensive prospects in the Draft.
After starting the year as the clear-cut top defenseman and contending to go second overall, Chychrun has slipped back to the pack a little bit and finds himself in a group with three or four other defensemen that are seen as more or less equal. Expect that group of defensemen to all go within the range of picks 4-15 in the first round. I put Chychrun 13th overall on my list because while I think he'll be a good player, he always just left me wanting a little bit more, and I don't think he'll be able to take that next jump to be an elite NHL defenseman. But more than likely a team will select Chychrun in the top 10.
Outside of the top three players in the Draft, Chychrun is likely the most "NHL ready" prospect in the Draft. There's a chance he could compete for an NHL roster spot as soon as next season in the right situation. He should become a reliable second/third pairing type defenseman very quickly, with the possibility that he develops into a top pairing defenseman.