(photo credit: Hockey's Future)
Valentin Zykov's first season in North America gave scouts and their NHL clubs a birds-eye view of the game-breaking talent that's put him high on many draft boards.
After one year spent with CSKA's second-division (junior) team in Russia as a 17-year-old, Zykov opted to bring his game to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and prepare himself for a possible career in the NHL. A strong performance for Team Russia in the 2011 World Junior A Challenge put him on the radar for this year's draft, but gaining experience in North American was deemed the best route for his career.
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In one season with Baie-Comeau in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Zykov was responsible for a lot of flights to Quebec - and there weren't many nights when scouts left the rink disappointed. He played 67 games this year for the Drakkar and scored 40 goals and totaled 75 points, and was named rookie of the year in the QMJHL as a result.
Zykov was also named the top rookie in the entire CHL with goal and point totals that were unsurpassed by any players in the WHL, OHL or QMJHL.
So, what makes this kid so special? Scouts will tell you Zykov's wide-ranging skill set is most appealing, and he's always in a good position to shoot the puck or make a play. In Baie-Comeau's 19-game playoff run in the Presidents' Cup tournament, Zykov was a point-per-game player with 10 goals and nine assists.
He scored some key goals for Baie-Comeau but also made his line mates look good, too. Not bad for a kid taken 76th overall in the CHL Import Draft.
Here's what Chris Bordeleau of NHL Central Scouting had to say about Zykov:
“He's an unbelievable talent; scores the big goals. He's going to be special. Great skater, strong kid. Really a solid kid. He goes into the corner and comes out with the puck. He has great hands, can shoot the puck, passes the puck, does everything well.”
The 6-foot, 208-pound left winger clocked in at eighth overall among North American-based skaters in Central Scouting's midterm rankings, and finished the draft year ranked seventh.
Season GP G A Pts PIM
2012-13 67 40 35 75 60