NHL Draft prospects: No. 18 Valentin Zykov

Valentin Zykov of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar receives the Rookie of the Year Trophy during the 2012-13 CHL Awards Ceremony.

Russian sniper Valentin Zykov is the No. 18 prospect in our top 30 countdown.

Stats: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) | 67 GP | 40 G | 35 A | 75 P | +29 | 60 PIM

Who is Valentin Zykov?
Zykov joined the Baie-Comeau Drakkar as a 17-year-old first-year player this season and became the most prolific rookie in the Canadian Hockey League. He was named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s rookie of the year after finishing first in league rookie scoring with 75 points. He had more points than any other rookie in the CHL, and edged out 15-year-old sensation Connor McDavid as CHL rookie of the year. He led QMJHL rookies in playoff scoring during the Drakkar’s march to the league finals, where they lost to the eventual MasterCard Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads.

Valentin Zykov’s scouting report:
Zykov combines his natural scoring ability with a burgeoning power game. At six-feet, 208 pounds, Zykov is big enough to use his frame to shield the puck with his body and plays a game that will help him strive in the North American style. His shot and release are perhaps his best assets, evidenced by his 40 goal season. His skating is adequate, but not overwhelming. Zykov shows a willingness to play in all three zones, but will earn his paycheques in the offensive zone.

Teams who might be interested in Valentin Zykov:
Zykov could slide on draft day, given the wide ranging opinions on the player he will become at the next level. He would, however, be a good fit for the Toronto Maple Leafs if he lasts to the 21st pick. He has size, but his scoring ability would be coveted most by the Maple Leafs. Toronto doesn’t have an abundance of forward prospects that can light the lamp and he would instantly become one of its most offensively-gifted prospects. Given the truculence of other forwards in the fold, Zykov would be given the time and space to create in a future Leafs lineup.

Scout’s take: “Zykov is a big, strong winger with great hands and a big shot,” says Ross MacLean, head scout for International Scouting Services. “He can be a very exciting player to watch and excels in high speed offensive situations. He has the hands to win space with moves but can also power his way to the middle and crash the net. He is a very dangerous shooter who can get the puck off quickly and seems to hit his spots more often than not. His defensive commitment and awareness needs to improve and he will need to get stronger to be able to play the style that has made him so successful at the next level.”

“He’s one of the few players that scored 40 goals this year, not only in the Quebec league, but in the CHL – he was kind of in a class all his own,” adds David Burstyn, director of scouting for McKeen’s Hockey. “Where Zykov really thrives is down low; he’s an absolute force on the puck. He’s very strong on his skates and he’s very strong on his stick. He can get his shot off almost in an instant. The one thing that can plague his game is he can sometimes play with tunnel vision and he doesn’t always see the pass. He’s a shoot-first type of player.”

Rankings: Zykov was ranked seventh by the NHL’s Central Scouting (North American skaters), 19th by International Scouting Services and 32nd by McKeen’s Hockey.

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