We're starting to head out of the middle and into what is called the late rounds of the draft. Int he fifth round, the New Jersey Devils selected defensmean Yegor Rykov out of SKA St. Petersburg with the one hundred and thirty-second overall pick.
My initial reaction is, well, like Maltsev. Who is this guy? Elite Prospects' profile states that Rykov is a defenseman who's played with SKA St. Peterburg's youth team with one appearance with the first team in the KHL. He's got a left-handed shot, which may factor in his future on the blueline. Rykov also has good size at 6'2" and 205 pounds. Most of all is his birthdate. Rykov was born on April 14, 1997 so he's 19. That means he's an overage selection as he was passed over last year.
Since he was eligible last year, here's some views on Rykov as an 18-year old by Alessandro Seren Rosso at Hockey's Future. Seren Rosso rated him sixth among all Russian prospects for last year's draft:
Team Russia’s captain at the 2015 U18 World Championship, Yegor Rykov, is an interesting two-way defenseman with a good mental game and very good puck skills, but who must also improve his defensive game and positioning. He does have some solid potential, however, so it seems likely that an NHL team might be interested in a promising defenseman with good size and international hockey exposure. Like others on this list, Rykov definitely needs some seasoning at home and must gain some experience in pro hockey before heading to North America. His contract with SKA will run out on April 30th, 2017.
This article by AJ Haefele at BSN Denver lists him as a potential find late in the 2015 draft that goes into more depth about his game:
Rykov is a big left-handed defender who both skates and passes well. He generates turnovers and clogs up opponents’ lanes well, generally getting himself in the way however he can. His passing talent sees him on the scoresheet often enough with assists and he has leadership experience as well, wearing an A for Ska-1946 St. Pete and a C for the 2014-15 Russian U18s. His rankings are all over the place, but there are certainly worse pick-ups in the fourth or fifth round, where he averages out.
This is all well and good. But what he did and how he performed didn't get him picked in 2015. After some further seasoning in Russia, he got noticed by New Jersey. Surely, his appearances at the 2016 World Junior Championships helped. Russia won silver and while stats from the WJC are limited, he surely wasn't a waste of a player on what was a successful team. He certainly scored an important goal - his one goal of the tournament - against Finland.
I have to thank Cirno Avery (@StarshipSKA) tweeting this profile he wrote at Habs Eyes on the Prize. It's an excellent FanPost that goes into depth with how Rykov played. It's also from this June. As the best parts are graphs that show where he stacks up on his team, go there and read it. He highlights that Rykov has improved in the pros and he thinks with more games, he'll be more and more of a positive contributor. He also thinks Rykov is a low risk, high reward pick. I am more than fine with that in the fifth round.
So perhaps the Devils did find a gem late in this draft, even if he's a year older than most prospects picked today. Seren Rosso's summary does have an important point: his contract ends next April. Provided he progresses, the Devils would be wise to try to move him to North America when that happens and see if he can keep progressing. If so, then initial question surrounding this fifth rounder can go from "Who is this guy?" to "Who's ready to see him play?"
All the same, regardless of my initial thoughts, I welcome Yegor Rykov to the New Jersey Devils organization. I wish him the best of luck in his development within the organization. Now I want to know what you think about the pick in the comments. Do you think it was a good pick or not and why? What do you expect this player will become for the Devils? Of course, don't forget to vote in our quick poll on the selection. Thank you for reading.