The first time many of even the most attentive NHL fans heard of Yegor Chinakhov was when the Columbus Blue Jackets made him their surprise first round selection in the 2020 draft. Already 19, he had gone undrafted the year before but was already making a splash in his first season in the KHL. He scored seven goals in the first month of play, and although the rest of the season was limited with injuries, he contributed five goals in the postseason as his hometown team Avangard Omsk won the Gagarin Cup. He also won the KHL’s rookie of the year award.
With all of that in hand, he signed his ELC with Columbus and made an impression in his first appearance in a Blue Jackets sweater, tallying six goals in three games in the Traverse City prospect tournament. He then earned a spot on the team at the start of the regular season, but had to wait to make his debut.
Known for having an elite shot, he didn’t find the back of the net until his ninth game, in mid-November against the Red Wings. It was a big one, though, as it tied the game.
In December, he again found himself facing a string of healthy scratches. Even when he did play, it was generally on a bottom six line. As a result, he struggled to get into a consistent rhythm. He was also caught in the wrong place at the wrong time on defense, though certainly he wasn’t alone on the team in that regard. The underlying stats suggest he was a victim of some bad luck, with an on-ice shooting percentage of 7.54 and on-ice save percentage of 88.21 (at 5v5). His personal shooting percentage at all strengths was 7.1, and I think we can expect that to increase, given his skillset.
Some struggles are to be expected from any rookie, and especially for one not only adjusting to a new league, but to a new country and language. Hopefully by next season this will feel more comfortable, and he can focus on hockey. Having another countryman among the forwards, Kirill Marchenko, could help as well.
Still, even with the language barrier, it seems that Chinny was popular in the locker room, and teammates celebrated his successes extra hard. How can you not love his kepi speeches?
Games played: 62
5v5 CF%: 46.7
5v5 FF%: 44.1
Chinakhov has one year remaining on his entry level contract, with a cap hit of $925,000. He will be a 10.2(c) free agent next summer, meaning he is not eligible for an offer sheet from another team.
His most impactful performance was likely the March home game against Minnesota. Chinakhov scored his first and only power play goal of the season to give the Jackets an early lead:
Then, after an emotional end to regulation that featured a controversial no-call that injured Voracek, and a last minute Werenski goal to send the game to overtime, Chinakhov scored the shootout winner.
From November 18 through January 6, Chinakhov played 14 games without earning a single point. He also spent some time in that span in the press box.
If I’m grading on a rookie curve, I’ll say B/B-. He was inconsistent and at times invisible, but from what we saw in the high points, there can be something special here in the future.
How would you grade Yegor Chinakhov’s 2021-22 season?