Jakob Chychrun was an underdog this season, but his stats and numbers certainly don’t show it. Chychrun was the underdog because of how his season started and how it ended. And he is one of the Arizona Coyotes’ biggest winners because of where he is right now.
Leading up to the 2017 NHL Draft, many believed that Chychrun was going to be in the top tier of draftees and among the top three defensemen eligible. They believed he would have made an excellent top 10 pick, and some even had him on the board at seven at the Coyotes first 1st round pick (myself included). But as the picks came in and the Chychrun’s continued to wait for their name, a story began to build.
Jakob Chychrun was out to prove the 14 teams that took other players before him wrong, and maybe even the Coyotes, for making him sweat it out for the 16th pick where they traded with Detroit.
So when Chychrun showed up to prospect camp last July, he was ready to go. I went to camp just to see how good he and his 2017 draft class really were, and he stood out in the most. In my notes that I found in my dorm desk, I wrote down three particular things about him; “dynamic”, “great footwork” and “makes his defensive partner better”. Now to put his play in perspective, the day I took those notes, he was paired with the currently undrafted Aaron Titcomb (NCAA Merrimack), whose resume doesn’t particularly scream NHL material.
His standout play translated over to rookie and the NHL camp, where he made it to final cuts and ultimately the Opening Night roster. Jakob Chychrun began his rookie campaign with a vengeance. But before he skated for his fourth career game, he had already won.
Because that day, after defeating Arizona 5-2, Montreal optioned ninth overall pick Mikhail Sergachev to the OHL. Chychrun, from October 20th until the very end of the season, was the only defensemen in his class to stick in the NHL for the first year after being drafted. Any points or accolades he accrued after were merely icing on his cake.
And boy, did ‘Chych’ have some extra icing on his cake. Chychrun totaled 20 points this season (7 goals and 13 assists for 20 points) and while he posted a negative plus/minus rating, one player can only do so much given the ups and downs the Coyotes had over their season.
Moreover, just to make it sweeter, he scored as many points in his rookie campaign and his father, Jeff Chychrun, did in the first five years of his career. When Jakob scores his fifth point next year, he will have matched his father’s total career points output. That, in it of itself, to me, deserves a passing grade.
Now in Chychrun’s 20 point campaign, many of those points came in spurts. A few came early on in October and then he had a pretty dry November and December, but Chych bounced back with four points in January and a 2-goal February. And, much like the Coyotes got their act together towards the end of the season and dug out of 29th place, Chychrun posted six points over his final 19 games of the season.
Chychrun also had his ups and downs over the season. He was benched by head coach Dave Tippett during various parts of the season for a variety of reasons, whether for strength building, to cycle in bench players like Kevin Connauton, or just that he didn’t live up to Tippett’s standards.
Overall, the unexpected underdog that is Jakob Chychrun defied expectations, considering who passed him in the draft. He stepped up at every opportunity and appeared in 83% of Coyotes games this season.
For me, Chychrun deserves an A-. I would have loved five or even ten more points, but then again, I would have liked everyone to have done that.
How would you have graded Jakob Chychrun; does he get the same grade or worse?
What Grade Would You Give Jakob Chychrun For His Rookie Season?
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The grades of all the other Coyotes players can be found on our master post here.