Note: I wrote this Fanpost following Jarmo's drafting of Chinakhov. It pretty much reflects my interest in the player, and my concerns about the pick. It also places Chinakhov in a context with some of our other higher-end prospects at the time (including PLD, which gives you a sense of its place in time). I've decided to post it now, in the context of Chinakhov's coming over to North America and some of the conversations about some of our other prospects.
Anyway. Here it is, my Fanpost entitled "Jarmo Picked Who?"
Jarmo Picked Who?
So Jarmo went so far off the board at the draft that he left everyone scratching their heads and scrambling for scouting notes on our newest first-round pick, Yegor Chinakhov (#21, 2020 NHL Entry Draft). Who the heck did we pick, and why is this guy so off-the-board that people are still intrigued, several days later.
It’s worth noting that the Jackets don’t have any picks after #21 until the third-rounder that they got in the Domi trade, so when we’re looking at this pick, we have to bear in mind whether or not there is a chance that Jarmo can get his guy at pick #78 in the third round. As rumour has it that at least one more team had the overager (he’s 19, nearly six months older than the older players in the draft class of 2020) as a late first-rounder, so unless Jarmo was able to trade down & still stay ahead of whomever those other teams were, then he had to take the kid when he had the chance if he was sold on him as a prospect. Did he try trading down? From an interview with Ken Campbell of SI:Hockey News, Jarmo wasn’t interested in making a move down the draft.
"With all due respect, we have our scouts for a reason and that’s who we believe in," said Blue Jackets GM and NHL cowboy Jarmo Kekalainen. "And their list is the most important thing. We’ve been watching this guy and following this guy all year and he was very high on our list. We didn’t want to take a chance of moving back, even though we considered it long and hard. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you want a guy and he’s really the only guy that you have that high and separates himself from the other group of players that’s still available, you take him."
So Jarmo was sold on him, so much so that he was wary of trading down to later in the first to get him, because he was afraid that he might lose his guy if he calculated wrong.
So Who Is He?
- His father, Vitali Chinakhov, played in the pre-KHL Russian league. He was mostly deployed as a depth C, and bounced about from Tier 1 to Tier 3 throughout his career. He made the playoffs five times, and played in relegation tournaments four times, so that kind of gives you the snapshot of his career right there.
- Yegor was pretty invisible during his rookie season (2018-19), but when given heightened responsibility during his sophomore season, the kid absolutely took off. Being featured on PP1 allowed him to utilize his lethally-accurate wrister and a quick snap-shot to great effect.
How Do The Scouts See Him?
- Dobber (from 2019 draft)
- For last year’s draft, Dobber brought in a correspondent that they only identified as "Russian Prospects" (@RUSProspects) @RUSProspects listed Yegor Chinakhov as first among his Tier 5 - Misunderstood Talent, and as #14 overall of Russian players in the 2019 draft.His take:
All these players have some talent, but I failed to understand them properly. It is unclear if I like what they offer enough to outweigh my concerns about them. Let me describe what my "love-hate" is in brief. Chinakhov: one of the best wristers here, it is really impressive how he finds those top corners, yet too many times he is just invisible.
EP has the following to say about Chinakhov:
Chinakov's offensive impact his impressive. He moves the puck quickly, supports the play well, and seems very aware of his options. His puck skills are high-end; he makes body fakes and quick cuts to force defenders to move their feet and open space. He consistently read opposing breakouts to intercept pucks.
- McKeen’s (2019)
- I don’t have a subscription to McKeen’s, so I can’t give a full reading to McKeen’s take. However, the following snippets are publicly available:
Yegor Chinakhov combines strong skating and a lethal wristshot to be a dangerous player in the offensive zone. However, his game has some flaws that could prevent him from realizing his full potential in the NHL.
He reads the game well and can anticipate the opposition’s moves, allowing him to use his stick for maximum disruption.
- Smaht compares Chinakhov with Tanner Pearson:
Tanner Pearson was an over-ager once upon a time ago and like Chinakhov, Pearson has a dominant shot. Pearson does possess a stronger defensive game and better physicality, so Chinakhov is off the mark there. But, if Chinakhov can improve his defense, physicality and skating, he could resemble Pearson.
Smaht Scouting was actually the most informative site that I could find for Chinakhov. He does a great deep dive, complete with a couple of video clips of some pretty darned good snipes.
He also outlines the holes in Chinakhov’s game. He’s not got a great stride; he keeps his feet too far apart, which hurts both his edgework and his overall foot speed — meaning that he can’t turn as sharply at speed or in close quarters and that it takes him longer than it should to get to his top skating speed. This is very similar to the stride issues that both Dylan Strome and Bo Horvat had when they were first drafted. Bo was able to completely rebuild his stride to an NHL+ level, and Strome took a bit longer, but has gotten himself to a NHL-average skating level today.
The bigger concern on my part is his DZ play. According to Smaht, Chinakhov is overly-reliant on poke-checking in the DZ — likely because his poor edgework leaves him vulnerable to getting undressed by a more mobile defenceman. This kind of ‘zone defence’ is definitely more viable in North American rinks because of the smaller ice surface, but it’s still not anywhere near as effective as a more aggressive approach. That said, I’m not certain that there is anything significant to gain from correcting this before improvements have been made in his skating stride.
What About His NHLe Comparisons?
I know that some have issues with me bringing in the NHLe tool scores as a way to view the developmental potential of prospects, but to me it is invaluable. In his article "Predicting Future NHL Scoring Success with NHLe Thresholds & Related Factors", Byron Bader looked at the correlation between hitting certain NHLe thresholds in a player's Draft and Draft+1 seasons (and later years, as well). His first conclusion is the most relevant to our look at Chinakhov’s performance relative to other CBJ prospects:
Of the sample population of players to record a 30+ NHLe in their draft year and were drafted in the 1st round and before the age of 19 ... 91% made the NHL (playing 100 games), 85% turned into at least average point-producers. and 59% turned into impact point-producers.. If we up the threshold to 34+ while keeping the other parameters the same ... 100% of the players made the NHL, 100% turned into at least average point-producers and 70% turned into impact point-producers.
Player League @18 y/o League @19 y/o
Chinakhov MHL 06.4 MHL 18.2
Bemstrom Allsvenskan 29.8 SHL 36.6
Texier Liga 09.9 Liga 17.7
Foudy OHL 28.8 OHL 39.7
PLD QMJHL 34.0 QMJHL 24.4* * Adding in playoff games, 28.8
From this we can see that Chinakhov has a similar development profile with Texier, in that both were relatively low-rated in their 18y/o season, and made significant gains in their 19y/o seasons. What reassures me about Texier’s development as a prospect is that he possesses both NHL+ speed and elite NHL+ puck-handling abilities, along with good vision on the ice.
Chinakhov, meanwhile, has elite shooting and playmaking skills, but sub-NHL skating ability. As has been noted above, his overly broad stride gives him decent stability but below-average mobility and acceleration.
As we’ve said before, skating can be fixed, and if you have the rest of the skills to play at a high level in the NHL, then fix the skating and get on with it. What concerns me about Chinakhov as a first-round pick is that he’s already one year behind in the development process (he’s a 19-year-old, rather than an 18-year-old) and I am not certain that Jarmo will be able to enforce a new skating regime on Chinakhov as long as he is playing in mid-season for Omsk.
If we couple the concerns over his skating with his @18-year NHLe score and his @19-year NHLe score, we see a promising young player, but not someone who is likely to result in a more moderate level of middle-6 NHL success.
Hopefully Jarmo's scouts are right, Chinakhov is able to rebuild his stride and become a dominant NHL player more akin to Vancouver's Bo Horvat rather than a more skilled, but limited, NHL regular like Dylan Strome.
We will see. Fingers crossed!