Vancouver free-agent signing Nikita Tryamkin is being compared to Zdeno Chara. Photo courtesy Lockerdome
After months of speculation, the Vancouver Canucks made it official this week by inking hulking defenseman Nikita Tryamkin to a two-year entry level contract. Worth noting is that Tryamkin will have an “AHL out clause,” allowing him to return to the KHL next season if he is assigned to the Canucks' AHL farm team.
Tryamkin’s performance may well be the most intriguing part of the remaining Canucks' schedule. As a mobile defender with an imposing 6-7 frame and weighing in at over 229 pounds, Tryamkin is a colossus of a man. While he still remains a project, his size and booming shot can’t help but evoke images of Zdeno Chara.
If his development continues on the right track, the 21-year-old defender represents an element that has been missing on the Vancouver blueline for quite some time – a physical specimen who can play at both ends of the ice. While expectations will need to be tempered, the future could be very bright.
Amidst the offensive explosion shown by familiar names such as Christian Dvorak (ARI), Mitch Marner (TOR) and Matthew Tkachuk (2016), the London Knights have enjoyed some excellent play from another new member this season.
J.J. Piccinich (TOR), joining the club this season after leaving Boston University, has emerged as a solid contributor. Putting up 62 points over 61 games with a plus-22 rating, Piccinich has exceeded the expectations many had laid out for him after a disappointing 2014-2015 season at BU.
While the jury remains out whether the Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect can emerge as a scoring threat at the professional level, the bulky winger isn’t willing to concede. A pair of primary assists in this past Tuesday’s 8-2 rout of the Kitchener Rangers served as evidence.
What may be most intriguing is how Piccinich’s future will unfold in Toronto with the bevy of draft picks and offensive prospects the club has added this season and last. Being a selection of the Dave Nonis regime in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL entry draft, it is distinctly possible that Brendan Shanahan/Lou Lamoriello/Mark Hunter selections could see preference. As a result, his professional future may lay with another NHL organization, either by trade or by Toronto allowing his rights to expire.
Given his strong play, and the restructuring of the Leafs' organization, it is hard to say where Piccinich will end up – however, he’s making a strong case for any club interested.
If you are going to root for someone at the NHL draft this summer, try to make it Will Bitten (2016) of the Flint Firebirds.
With the gong show that has been the Firebirds' season, including a pair of coaching debacles resulting in the CHL seizing control of the club and suspending the owner, Bitten has pushed through. Playing on a weak team with its share of distractions, the diminutive winger is quietly sitting at 25th overall in league scoring. Considering the team around him, this is impressive.
While the NHL entry draft is meant to be objective, one can’t help but quietly root for a player like this. Throughout every scandal, Bitten has continued to produce and never added fuel to the fire despite knowing full well how this season would impact his draft position. While he is projected as a mid-second-round selection, and perhaps rightly so, it would be a really nice surprise to see him go in the first round. Though unlikely, it certainly isn’t impossible.
If anyone deserves some good fortune at this year’s draft, Will Bitten does.
Perhaps one of the more polarizing figures in the coming NHL draft is U.S.-born defenseman Chad Krys (2016).
The Ridgefield, CT, product has earned a variety of assessments by those in the scouting world. "Undersized," say some, citing him as a mid- to late-second-round prospect. “Sublime offensive skills,” say others, who would consider him a potential first-rounder.
While the jury is out, and perhaps each side has merit, Krys has shown a level of talent that cannot be taught. Though his body would certainly need to grow to withstand the rigors of a professional career, he has committed to an acclaimed program at Boston University for next year.
On a reputable team such as this, where he is likely to be provided solid minutes and an opportunity to excel at a high level, Krys could emerge as an absolute steal, making one club look very smart – and 29 others very silly.
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