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Big Canucks rookie Tryamkin draws Chara comparison

Vancouver lists D-man at 6-foot-8, 220 pounds; he says he's bit shorter, heavier

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- When the Vancouver Canucks say they hope Russian defenseman Nikita Tryamkin will be a big part of their future, they mean it literally.

They just have to figure out exactly how big their new defenseman is.

The press release announcing Tryamkin's two-year, entry-level contract with the Canucks on Wednesday listed him at 6-foot-8, 220 pounds. On Thursday, Tryamkin said he's closer to 6-foot-7.5, 245 pounds.

Either way, it's not surprising to hear who he is regularly compared to.

"Everybody compares me to Zdeno Chara my entire life, and I have no idea why," Tryamkin joked.

Tryamkin arrived in Vancouver late Wednesday and skated with a couple of injured teammates Thursday before the rest of the Canucks practiced.

Although some players expressed concern there was too much hype surrounding his arrival after he signed followig the Kontinental Hockey League season, the 21-year-old did not shy away from comparisons to Chara, the Boston Bruins' 6-foot-9 defenseman.

Tryamkin, who had four goals, 11 points and 71 penalty minutes in 53 regular-season games with Yekaterinburg of the KHL this season, modeled his game after Chara's but said he is eager to establish a name for himself in the NHL.

"I would like to surpass and be better than Zdeno Chara," Tryamkin said.

That's a lofty goal. The Canucks, who selected Tryamkin in the third round (No. 66) in the 2014 NHL Draft, will be careful to give him some time before he begins to try to achieve it.

Tryamkin will practice with the Canucks for the first time Friday, but coach Willie Desjardins said it was "highly unlikely" he would make his NHL debut Saturday against the Nashville Predators.

"Guys will be on him a lot quicker here," Desjardins said. "With the big ice (in the KHL), they don't want to pressure out so much because they get far away from their net. Here, guys will go at him hard. There will be a difference of pace and pressure. We want him to be successful, so once we feel he is comfortable and ready to go, we'll get him in."

The Canucks need to get a good look at Tryamkin over their final 16 games this season; his contract includes a clause that allows him to return to Russia rather than being sent down to the American Hockey League next season, and he indicated he would do just that.

"My main goal and focus is to play and remain in the NHL, and if that does not work out, I will go back to Russian and hone my skills there and do whatever is necessary and whatever it takes to get back and stay in the NHL," Tryamkin said. "The NHL is my main goal and the only thing that will take me out of my home country is the NHL."

Tryamkin helped Russia win a bronze medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, and has nine goals, 28 points and 158 penalty minutes in 188 KHL games over four seasons with his hometown team in Yekaterinburg. He shoots left but can play the right side, where the Canucks have a greater need, and said he is comfortable on the left or right.

Tryamkin's ice time increased from 17:41 in the regular season to 21:13 during a first-round loss in the KHL playoffs, when he had one assist. He has a hard but sometimes wild shot, and even provided a net-front presence on the power play.

"I consider myself a two-way defender, very responsible in the defensive zone, but I feel I have what is necessary to help the attack as well," Tryamkin said.

Adjusting to a new language and culture off the ice won't be easy, but Tryamkin said he used social media to keep in touch with a couple of players he met during the Canucks' 2014 development camp. It should also help that he'll be surrounded by other younger players as Vancouver continues a rebuild that will soon see Tryamkin become the ninth player to make his NHL debut this season, two short of the Canucks record.

"It would be harder if he was coming into a team that was all older guys with families," said 20-year-old center Bo Horvat, who kept in touch with Tryamkin through Instagram. "It's going to be a lot easier to have guys around his age."

Captain Henrik Sedin, who practiced Thursday after missing two games because of an upper-body injury, is worried about all the attention on the young Russian.

"I'm a little scared about the hype around him," Sedin said. "He's played in the KHL and done a good job there, but it's different to play in the NHL. That's why this is the best league in the world, so people should not hype him too much. He's going to get some games and we'll go from there, but he's not going to be the next Chris Pronger."

He might not be the next Zeno Chara either, but the Canucks should get a better idea how high Tryamkin does project in the NHL before the end of this season.

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