Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Date of Birth: May 15th, 1995
Place of Birth: St. Petersburg, Russia
Ht: 6'0" Wt: 207lbs
First, a little back story. Bear with me.
Back in the 2010-2011 QMJHL season, the Baie Comeau Drakkar and Halifax Mooseheads were two of the league's weakest teams. The Drakkar finished 17th of 18 teams, while the Mooseheads finished 15th. When the 2011 QMJHL Draft came along, the Drakkar won the coin flip, giving them the first overall pick, while the Mooseheads picked fourth.
Leading up to the draft, there was enormous hype for the consensus top prospect- one Nathan MacKinnon. Baie Comeau insisted that they were going to draft him, even though MacKinnon stated publically that he would not report to Baie-Comeau if they drafted him. MacKinnon threatened to play in the NCAA-and in fact was skating with a USHL team on the day of the Q draft-but off the record he and his family were hoping something could be arranged for him to suit up for his home town Mooseheads team. The Mooseheads tried hard to move up from fourth to grab him, but the Drakkar stood their ground and drafted MacKinnon first overall. The Mooseheads did manage to move up to second in the draft via a trade with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, where they drafted Jonathan Drouin. Heard of him?
Days after the draft, with MacKinnon still refusing to report to the Drakkar, a deal was finally put together sending him to Halifax. From that point on the fates of the Drakkar and Mooseheads were tied together.
Fast forward to this past season. Halifax and Baie-Comeau finished 1-2 in the regular season, and carved through the playoffs, meeting each other in the league final. MacKinnon was booed heartily in Baie-Comeau, adding fuel to the fire. For me personally however, the MacKinnon/Baie-Comeau thing wasn't the only story line in this series. The Drakkar picked up former Columbus prospect Petr Straka in a deal with Rimouski. Straka had a fantastic overage season, and part of me still believes the Jackets gave up on him too early. He's since signed with the Flyers.
The storyline with this final series that grabbed me the most? The Drakkar had the league's highest-scoring rookie on their roster, who also took home the Michel Bergeron trophy as the league's top offensive rookie. He's also considered to be a shoe-in for the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Yup, it was Valentin Zykov.
He came out of nowhere. Drafted in the second round of the CHL Import Draft, you'd be lying if you thought he'd have the impact that he did. Most teams forfeit their Import second-rounders, but Baie Comeau saw something in Zykov and managed to convince him to move to Quebec from Russia.
The rest is history. He showed high-end offense, playing a power-forward style. On what was already a good team primed for a playoff run, he stepped in and finished only behind Straka in team scoring during the regular season. He was a point-per-game player in the playoffs as well.
I paid special attention to him during the President's Cup Final. In Game One, the Mooseheads shut out the Drakkar 4-0, and nobody, including Zykov, looked particularly good for Baie-Comeau. In the second game, Zykov had a terrific game, putting up a goal and an assist in a losing cause. He scored again in Game 3, and in the decisive Game 5, he scored Baie-Comeau's only goal. Overall, he looked very good, banging bodies, putting up points. I was impressed.
The team that drafts Zykov will get a very good power winger, a kid who has shown a commitment to North America by suiting up in the QMJHL. He's already got good size, and with added thickness his game will only get better. His skating is an issue, but not a deal-breaker.
Zykov was one of this season's biggest surprises. He did not come into the QMJHL as an elite scoring prospect, but he really flourished at Baie-Comeau. He is a skilled player, showing nice touch with the puck. He is able to make plays in tight spaces, flashing high-end skill at times. He can distribute the puck at a quality level, showing quick decision-making, with good offensive instincts. Zykov's intriguing element is his physicality. He is quite strong for a U-18 player, and he is proficient at shielding the puck and driving the net. He works hard, he will backcheck, and he can lay some crushing hits. His skating is an area of concern. A few sources describe him as a good skater, but a few that I trust believe he is clearly below average.
- Hockey Prospectus
Why he'd be a good fit in Columbus:
Let's face it, Columbus needs offense. Zykov would give the Jackets an element they don't have at the moment- a brusing power winger with a nose for the net. He'd have plenty of countrymen mentors to lean on, with Artem Anisimov, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin and Sergei Bobrovsky in the dressing room.
He'll probably be drafted in the middle of the first round, right where the Jackets are currently sitting. This pick makes a lot of sense for Columbus, and fans will fall in love with his bang-and-crash style and ability to put up offense.
Zykov in Action: