Not much was known about Nikita Tryamkin when he was selected 66th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Passed over in his first two draft eligible seasons, the Canucks saw enough in the 6'7" defenceman to snag him early in the third round.
Tryamkin returned to the KHL for another two seasons, working on his game, and becoming more of an offensive threat, while still being reliable in his own zone. That work paid off as he set KHL career highs in goals, assists and points. He also set a new penalty minute mark with 71 PIM. The rear-guard was even playing the net front presence on the power play for Yekaterinburg.
He also appeared in the Spengler Cup that year with his KHL team, Avtomobilist.
Generally players selected after their third season of draft eligibility don't make the leap to the NHL, but at the conclusion of the 2015-16 KHL season, Tryamkin signed his entry level contract with the Canucks.
He appeared in 13 games for the organization to close out the season, and there were flashes of what he could become. A hard nosed, smooth skating, and defensively sound defenceman who made it difficult in front of the net for the opposing team.
Entering into this season, there was hopes he would build on his impressive debut and force himself into a full time role. Unfortunately, the season started with Tryamkin as the odd man out of the line-up. But on the positive side, this allowed him to work on his game, conditioning, and get ready for when he was going to be needed.
On November 3rd, that opportunity came, and he hasn't looked back. Still playing with that 'tough to play against' mentality, Tryamkin has seen a maturation to his game in his 42 appearances this season. The confidence is growing. In the last 10-15 games, there has been a noticeable change to his game.
In the past, it may have been a simple chip off the glass and out, now the hulking defenceman is looking for passes to create transition. He is also now regularly joining the rush, driving the net, looking for rebounds or tips. This is handful for the opposing team to try and contain the big man.
These additions to his game aren't taking away from what he is well-known for - which is being dependable in his own zone. He does a very good job angling opposition wide and keeping his stick in the shooting lanes. All of this while still completing his first full season in the NHL.
Tryamkin has quickly become a fan favourite, and it feels like he is just starting to scratch the surface on what he can do. If he can continue to join the rush and drive lanes, the offence will follow. Tryamkin is currently 5th in P/60 amongst the nine defenceman that the Canucks have dressed this season. A couple points over the next few games and he could easily leap frog into the top three.
Tryamkin has had some ups and downs this season when it comes to his play this season, but there have been encouraging signs that fans are rightfully getting excited about. It's great to see a player that was drafted by the organization make a tangible impact to the roster so quickly after being selected.
Every game there is hope what fans will see something new from the big man.
With the emergence of Troy Stecher this season, Olli Juolevi having a good season in the OHL, and Tryamkin rounding out his game, the Canucks are starting to build up some exciting young talent on the backend. In a few years, those three could make up the core of the Canucks defence.