Welcome to the 2017 edition of the TLN Top 20 Summer Prospect Rankings, or whatever formal name you’d like to call them. Today, we start the official Top 20 countdown. If you’re new to this, a bunch of blogger hacks vote on a list of Leafs youth products and aggregate them into a ranking. (The eligibility rules are attached at the bottom of this article in the intro post. Not EVERYONE in the Leafs system is eligible, so make sure you understand that before asking in three weeks or so why so-and-so is not on the list.)
And then every day, it seems, a lot of people argue about whatever we write and are very concerned with our rankings of specific players.
Sometimes, the 20th prospect ends up being a guy the fanbase tends to know pretty well…
But getting things underway with Nikolai Chebykin? Okay, let’s see what you can argue about here and who will pretend to know him the best.
Adam Laskaris: 20
Megan Kim: 17
Evan Presement: 16
Bobby Cappuccino: 15
Brayden Engel: 15
Dylan Fremlin: 19
Ryan Fancey /// Ryan Hobart /// Scott Maxwell /// Shawn Reis/// Jon Steitzer /// Hayley Hendren: Unranked
Chebykin came to the Leafs as the first pick in the seventh and final round of the 2016 Draft. One day after everyone (for the most part) was still nursing their “Auston Matthews is a Maple Leaf” hangover, he was brought over as a prospect who had already been passed over once the year before. There was a lot of “OK who is this guy?” reactions, but after we all got a google in the reaction mostly shifted to “understandable to spend a seventh round pick on this guy.”
Like anyone without a great comparable value, it’s no easy task to look at Chebykin’s stats and say “hey this is good” or “hey this is bad”. When Chebykin was drafted (in terms of both the actual selection and which year of eligibility he was picked in) shouldn’t matter now, but it does create some complications because there really aren’t a whole lot of Russian overage prospects being taken every year. For example, his traditional “draft+1” year isn’t, you know, actually a draft+1 year because uh, he wasn’t drafted yet. I trust you all to be somewhat rational at making your own conclusions, but here’s some basic takeaways:
- He played for three different teams last season: one in each of Russia’s top two tiers (KHL and VHL), as well as the top russian junior league (MHL).
- He only had six points in his first go around at the draft. Not to be Bill Nye or anything, but that’s why he wasn’t drafted.
- In the year where the Leafs took him in the draft, his role on the team increased and he became the team’s leading scorer.
- Last year, he finished third on his MHL team in scoring despite playing less than one-third of the team’s games.
- He’s picking up a decent amount of penalty minutes. Doesn’t mean much either way, but notable.
The Eye Test:
Chebykin, when given a fair shake, has been decent but not mind-blowing. Getting icetime stats on most leagues that aren’t the NHL is next to impossible, but when a player jumps up their point total like he did from his first to second year of draft eligibility, it isn’t a hard assumption to make that he moved into a bigger role. It’s hard to play pro hockey in any league at 20 like he was doing, so even though “trust coaches” must always be taken with a grain of salt, there’s some merit to trusting the people who see him every day. There’s a lot of buzzwords to be thrown around about a player, but it does sound like he was legitimately overlooked in his first go around and when given a chance to perform, he did.
He’s a tough player to find a real scouting report for, as basically no one was looking at him all that closely in his first draft year and by year two, he was mostly forgotten except apparently, in the eyes of the Leafs European scouts. Where exactly the Leafs came to the decision they wanted him is unclear, but as far as “let’s take a flyer on this guy and hope it works out” picks go, well, let’s just say they could have done far worse.
As Seen on TV:
Here’s his best “Mitch Marner playing minor hockey” impersonation. Good vision, good work finding the gaps, good skating and good finish.
You can never read too much into a highlight video or GIF, but I mean, at least his best highlight isn’t him backchecking or something.
Then there’s this, which is a pretty routine play but is actual evidence of him scoring at the KHL level.
Here’s a full highlight video of his, courtesy of SEER Video:
EliteProspects.com has him lined up as playing for SKA-Neva St. Petersburg of the VHL next season, but considering he spent some amount of time in the KHL in 2016-17, don’t be surprised if he makes his way up to a top-flight club for at least some icetime in the top Russian league next year.
While the AHL would be an option, an extremely overlooked aspect of player development is comfort level and it probably makes the most sense to take a T.O. on bringing him to T.O. Chebykin has yet to play a season on a North American team, and while it would be nice to have him in the 6 playing at the Ricoh Coliseum instead of toiling on a KHL team’s bottom-six, is that what Chebykin wants? He’s obviously still a few years away to be competing for an NHL roster spot and would have to jump up the depth chart considerably, so is there any rush to bring him to the Big Smoke? Instead of Hogtown, Chebykin, in my opinion, would be better suited to stay at home next season and be reassessed a year from now.
Gauging a prospect before they’re over on North American soil is never an easy experience. We’re not going to pretend than anyone on our staff spent tons of time watching him and critiquing every aspect of his game. To most of the fanbase, he’s still a bit of a mystery. The truth appears to be that while Chebykin is a solid prospect who was a good seventh-round gamble in his second year of eligibility, he’s far from a sure thing and it’s okay not to be super hyped about him. As you can tell, about half of our writers didn’t even find the need to rank him within the top 20, with no one ranking him any higher than 15th. That being said, if he does eventually make his way over to the Marlies where we’d be getting a more regular look at him, he might be a dark horse candidate to be a top-10 prospect in the Leafs system one day.
More prospect content:
We explained things how things work in our Top 20 Rankings here….
Then kicked the list off with our no-votes…
Then Ryan Fancey put in the skinny on a few players who didn’t quite make the cut.
And lastly, we’ve got some wonderful #Jontent on where the Leafs’ prospect pool sits as a whole compared to the league. Which really doesn’t matter much considering the Leafs were basically half rookies last year and still made noise. And also likely their three best forwards are all under 21. So, there’s that.
See you tomorrow. A new prospect profile every weekday at 9 am, guaranteed every day or your money back.