With Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe both sidelined by injuries, the Hurricanes played with 7 defensemen and only 11 forwards on Tuesday night in Colorado. To get back to 12 forwards, the team called up Valentin Zykov from Charlotte on Wednesday, and he is expected to jump right into the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Rangers. The game will be the NHL debut for the 21-year old right wing from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Along with Derek Ryan, Brock McGinn, Andrej Nestrasil and Phil Di Giuseppe who have seen fairly extended runs at the NHL level and more recently Patrick Brown, Zykov will be yet another player who could play his way into consideration for the 2017-18 roster with a strong run at the NHL level.
My impression of Valentin Zykov from training camp
From watching Zykov in training camp and preseason, what stood out to me was his decent combination of skill and rugged play and comfort level handling the puck and physical contact in the crowded spaces in an NHL game. If he puts it all together, he has a bit of a Mark Recchi element to his game as a strong player who can give and take contact and win physical battles but also with enough skill and hockey sense to be more than a checking line grinder. He skates well enough in terms of skill, but I think the challenge for him could be his ability to play at NHL speed in terms of acceleration and covering the full 200 feet of the rink at NHL pace.
Thoughts from Jordan Futrell on Valentin Zykov’s 2016-17 season with the Charlotte Checkers
I traded a couple text messages with Jordan Futrell who covers the Checkers’ beat at Canes and Coffee. Jordan is excited to see him at the NHL level and anxious to see how he performs. He mentioned Zykov’s ability to use his body/strength to his advantage and also thinks that he could have more to offer in terms of skill/stickhandling if he settles in and gets comfortable and builds confidence.
Zykov was included in the “3 Stars of the Week” in Jordan’s most recent ‘Checking In’ on February 23.
Jordan also wrote about Zykov in some detail during his ‘First Impressions’ series on November 14.
Additional notes from Jordan Futrell added Thursday 3/9
Valentin Zykov was just called up by the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday (Mar. 9) for the first NHL action of his career. He currently ranks third on the Checkers in scoring, with 15 goals and 15 assists in 55 games played. Zykov has impressive skill in the corners of the offensive zone, and he knows how to use his body to his advantage so he can fend off opposing players from taking the puck. He still needs to work on his acceleration as he is not the fastest player as of right now. But he will surprise sometimes with a nice burst a speed and and blow past a defender for a quality scoring opportunity. Zykov has also illustrated some nice stick handling skills while on the fast break and he will finesse his way around defenders as opposed to bulling right past them. The biggest thing to watch for is if he will be able to keep up with the speed up of the NHL game and if he is still able to use his body on offense to the extent he can in the AHL.
My watch points for Valentin Zykov
If he makes his NHL debut on Thursday as expected, he will jump right onto my ‘what I’m watching’ list. For Zykov, I think the starting point is being able to match the NHL pace. If he does that, my secondary checkpoints will be whether he can use some combination of his rugged play and skill to make a difference offensively and how he looks in terms of positioning and decision-making defending.