Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun, a projected first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, appears ready to make up for lost time.
Chychrun, who had 16 goals and 17 assists in 42 games last season as a rookie in the Ontario Hockey League, missed 26 regular-season games and five OHL playoff games because of an upper-body injury. Despite the absence, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound left-shot defender was a nominee for OHL rookie of the year and defenseman of the year.
"There's lots of expectations just because of how he's performed more than anything else, but it's compounded a little bit because we haven't been able to see as much of him than we would have liked," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "There's a lot of anticipation leading into his OHL season."
Jakob Chychrun is an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's September players to watch list (Photo: Metcalfe Photography)
Chychrun had shoulder surgery at the end of the last season, and the son of former NHL player Jeff Chychrun knows all eyes will be on him to open 2015-16. He is an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's September players to watch list, which was released Tuesday.
The players to watch list is Central Scouting's compilation of top prospects from all the major leagues throughout North America and Europe. The list is updated throughout the season as scouts get extra viewings on players throughout the season.
The 24 players on the list with an A rating are considered potential first-round picks. Players with a B rating are considered possible second- or third-round choices; players with a C rating are potential fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-round candidates.
"I saw Chychrun a lot last year before his injury, and again after he returned, and he has an all-around game," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "I haven't seen a young defenseman with this type of skill set in his draft year since Scott Stevens. Jakob has that drive and determination, and when I look in his eyes you can see it. He's almost NHL-ready right now.
"People will be very impressed with this kid; he's got a phenomenal shot, he's a leader and plays all situations, and his 1-on-1 coverage is great."
Chychrun could be in the running for the top pick of the 2016 draft, which will be held June 24-25, 2016 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Center Auston Matthews of ZSC in Switzerland is considered the best player in this season's draft class. An A-rated skater among Switzerland players, Matthews is projected to be the first American-born player chosen No. 1 since Patrick Kane was picked by the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2007 draft.
Seven players from the OHL, four from the Western Hockey League, two from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, two from the United States Hockey League and five from Europe received A ratings.
Among the A-rated skaters considered to be high-end first-round picks are left wing Matthew Tkachuk, left wing Max Jones and defenseman Olli Juolevi, of the London Knights (OHL), center Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters (OHL), left wing Kieffer Bellows of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program (USHL), defenseman Dante Fabbro and center Tyson Jost of the Penticton Vees (British Columbia Hockey League), and right wing Julien Gauthier of the Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL).
Tkachuk (6-1, 195), who had one goal and two assists in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Top Prospects Game on Sept. 24, had two goals and four assists in his first two OHL games. Last season with the USNTDP U-18 team he had 38 goals and 96 points in 65 games.
"It would not surprise me if he made the roster for the United States at the [2016 IIHF] World Junior Championship," Gregory said. "He brings every element of the game that you need to bring, aside from the fact how skilled he is and what he brings with hockey sense. He's got one of the best compete levels of anyone in this draft."
Retired NHL player Jeremy Roenick, who coached Tkachuk in the All-American Top Prospects Game, thought the son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Keith Tkachuk was the most impressive player in the game.
"I thought his compete level and intelligence really stood out; he knew where to go, and at that age it's rare to see kids like that knowing where to go with the puck before they get it," Roenick said.
DeBrincat (5-7, 163) led OHL rookies last season with 51 goals, 53 assists and 104 points, was named rookie of the year in the OHL and the Canadian Hockey League, and has gotten off to a solid start this season with a goal and an assist in his first game. He also played in the All-American Top Prospects Game.
DeBrincat will need to prove to scouts this season that he can thrive without the assistance of Connor McDavid, who was selected No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers.
"DeBrincat will be one of the more intriguing prospects scouted this year," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. "He has an obvious and unique skill set which combines well with his tenacity to score. While his size is not an asset, it's not affected him from being able to consistently generate offense for his team."
Jost (5-11, 191), who will attend the University of North Dakota in 2016-17, can play center or wing; he had 23 goals and 45 points in 46 games for Penticton as a rookie in 2014-15.
His teammate, Fabbro (6-foot, 189), had four goals and 29 assists in 44 games.
"Fabbro is a strong positional player with a very good read-and-react game," Marr said. "He's always in a good position to break up a play. He gets his point shot on the net; he was Canada's best defenseman at 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament."
There are two A-rated players from the NCAA ranks: Boston University freshman defenseman Charles McAvoy (6-foot, 208) and University of Wisconsin freshman center Luke Kunin (6-foot, 193). Each player participated in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.
"We expect Charlie to make an immediate impact and play in all situations," Boston University coach David Quinn said. "He's got great skills and vision and he's a big, strong kid that skates well. He's one of the top freshman defensemen in college hockey."
Quinn also had the best NCAA player on his roster last season in center Jack Eichel, who was chosen No. 2 in the 2015 draft by the Buffalo Sabres.