Mike got our new Young Guns series started yesterday with his look at Alexander Wennberg, and next up is Kerby Rychel, taken just five picks later in 2013. Rychel is a bulldog, listed at 6'1" and a shade over 200 pounds, and he plays a power game to match. Rychel is coming off his third consecutive season in the OHL with more than a point per game, and that stretch includes 194 games with 115 goals and 135 assists, for a total of 250 points.
He split last season between Windsor and Guelph after a trade, helping his team to within a game of the Memorial Cup, adding 11 goals and 21 assists in 20 playoff games.
Born: Torrence, California
As Mike noted in his Wennberg piece, there are not very many spots into which Rychel fits with the Jackets out of camp, barring injuries. With the likes of Brian Gibbons and Jerry D'Amigo already having some NHL experience to go with their two-way contract status, not to mention competition from the likes of Wennberg and Simon Hjalmarsson.
One thing that Rychel might have in his favor is that the fourth line is about as wide open on both sides of Mark Letestu as can be this training camp. Rychel is strong enough and can be physical enough to play a fourth line role while also contributing on the Power Play as well with his willingness to go to the net, by physical, and his knack for putting the puck into the goal.
Working against him is that he's not the fleetest of foot, and some of the guys he'll be competing with for a fourth line spot have an edge there; given the club's stated desire to play "faster" this is not insignificant. It also remains to be seen if Rychel can be as effective when not in a prime scoring situation in terms of his ice time. Playing on the fourth line would certainly limit his chances to score, and he was not known quite so much for the other aspects of his game in juniors.
Rychel can certainly bring a lot to the table in the future, especially if he continues to work on his skating and his two-way play. He has the body type, the strength, and the scoring touch to be an NHL player. Right now, however, unless he can beat out some more experienced, faster guys and earn a spot on the fourth line, he looks to most likely start out in Springfield. One thing the Blue Jackets do have on their side, for once, is time. There's no need to rush a guy like Rychel to the NHL unless he flat-out earns it.
When it's all said and done after camp, I see Rychel getting a top-six role in Springfield, and being one of the first guys called up if there are injuries in Columbus. I just don't think it's his time to take a spot full-time in the NHL. Yet.
But, if he keeps scoring like he has been, that time will come sooner rather than later.