Baie Comeau's Valentin Zykov is a Russian-born power forward - measuring 6'1", 215 lbs - who won rookie of the year honours in the QMJHL this past season. Playing in Russia's MHL in 2011-2012, he was buried in ice time behind several drafted NHLers and failed to gain much attention from scouts. When he arrived on North American ice this past fall however - a second round pick in the CHL import draft - something unexpected happened. He adapted to the North American game as quick as anybody in recent memory, and developed into a promising young talent, now expected to go in the first round of the NHL draft at the end of June.
Zykov, although not the tallest player, has a large body and uses it effectively to drive to the net, with a goal scorer's instinct. He also possesses a very quick release, which has fooled Q goalies all year long. Scouts deviate on how good of a skater he is, with some praising his lateral quickness and ability to go east-west, and some saying that his hunched-over style means that his top level quickness and first few strides aren't as fast as they should be for a player of his talent level, and that if he doesn't adjust that could hold him back from being a top-6 forward at the NHL level. Nobody will question Zykov's puck handling or ability to take on a defender 1-on-1 however, as he does a great job shielding the puck with his body and can muscle past defenders.
|2011-12||CSKA Krasnaya Armiya (MHL)||52||5||6||11||n/a||105|
|2012-13||Baie Comeau (QMJHL)||67||40||35||75||29||60|
Since it's often a question-mark with Russian-born players, it's particularly appealing that by all accounts, Zykov's work-ethic is exemplary, as he will battle hard along the boards - and win battles there - as well as helping out on the back check. In many ways, he is the desired blend of North American and European styles. He has also done well in the playoffs, as he led all rookie scorers in the Q with 19 points in 19 games, leading Baie Comeau to the league finals. Finally, Zykov has become a fan favourite, which considering his talent level and work ethic, isn't altogether surprising.
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus:
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.
Top Shelf Prospects:
Zykov plays a style reminiscent of Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings. Remember that this is a style comparison only. In terms of potential, its a bit of a boom or bust pick. If he can improve his skating, he can be an invaluable power forward in the NHL. He has the grit, size, and offensive skill necessary to achieve a high level of success, but it will be a bit of a project for an NHL team.
ISS Rank: 16
Craig Button Rank: 37
FC Rank: 19
McKeen's Rank: 32
Pronman Rank: 19
Hockey News Rank: 31
Average Rank: 26
Personal Rank: 16
Zykov is a player that will likely be selected somewhere between 15-30 in the June 30 draft. He probably isn't a player that I would trade up to acquire, but I wouldn't hesitate to select him 25th overall presuming nobody more tempting drops that far. It must be noted that Craig Button compares Zykov to Michael Ryder. This isn't a comparison that I would make, wrist shot aside, since I see Zykov as a harder worker, a better defensive player, and more of a power forward than a pure sniper.
Note: Feel free to make suggestions of players you would like to see profiled in the comments. This is intended as a cross-section of players I feel the Canadiens should look at, and those who I think they may draft.