Yegor Chinakhov, 6-1, 189 pounds
February 1, 2001 (21 years old)
Drafted 1st round (#21 overall), 2020 NHL Draft
Cap hit: $925k through 2022-23
Role: Middle six winger
When we talk about the bright future of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Yegor Chinakhov is one player that seems to be left out of the discussion. But after causing the network analysts to scramble for notes before talking about his selection in the first round of the 2020 draft, he’s been a prospect that’s risen quietly in value. In fact, when the team traded Oliver Bjorkstrand this summer, my first thought was that Chinakhov should be ready for a larger role.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that Yegor Chinakhov will have an Oliver Bjorkstrand type season … at least not this year. But, he’s a similar type of player that may have even more offensive upside. Touted by Jarmo Kekalainen as having been in his scouting staff’s top-10 for that 2020 draft, Chinakhov has a tremendous shot, compared by former coach Bob Hartley to Hall of Famer Joe Sakic. We witnessed this quick release on a few occasions last year, but for Chinakhov to really break through, he’ll need to find those opportunities more often this season.
What impressed me most about him wasn’t his shooting, however: I was surprised at how well rounded his game was. Often with young goal scorers, there are glaring holes in other areas of their games that need a lot of work. This is why guys develop at different paces. But Chinakhov is an effective back-checker, who played surprisingly tough along the boards and worked equally hard on both sides of the puck. Sure, he needs polish (he gets there, but does he know what to do when he gets there?), but I can see him becoming a player not unlike Bjorkstrand in his two-way ability.
Three Keys to Success
- Shoot the puck. There’s no need to confuse things for Yegor – his shot is so good that, like Patrik Laine, he should be using it every chance he gets. Even if the looks aren’t clean, put the puck towards the net with some frequency.
- Take advantage. Heading into camp this year, I think most people will have him penciled into the lineup, which was not the case last year. He now has some idea what it takes to be an NHL player, and should take full advantage of the opportunity. Don’t let a younger player pass you up.
- Polish. He’s quick to work back and help defend, and shows a penchant for playing along the boards. But, he needs to learn what to do in those situations. For example, if he can win the puck off the wall and fire a quick shot on net, he’s going to cause problems for a lot of goaltenders.
2022-23 Expectation: Get comfortable.
I won’t say he should score 20 goals this year because that’s a lot to ask of any 21 year old in the NHL. But, he’s capable of doing that and more in this league. The next step for him is getting comfortable in the North American lifestyle. Prove you belong in the NHL and that you can contribute more than just goals. Continue learning English, learning how to check and defend better, and settle in. With a release like his, the goals will come. Read: 2022 Season Preview: Andrew Peeke