Every season, there are prospects that come into their draft year as highly regarded players but end up falling in the rankings due to performance. One such prospect this season like that is Yaroslav Likhachyov, a talented Russian forward who just completed his first season in North America for the Gatineau Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. This profile will take a closer look at his game and see if he could be worth using a late round pick on.
Who is Yaroslav Likhachyov?
According to his QMJHL page, Yaroslav Likhachyov (aka Iaroslav Likhachev) is a 5’10, 170 lbs. right wing that shoots right handed. He was born in Yaroslav, Russia on September 2, 2001 thus just making the cut off for this year’s draft by a couple of weeks. His EliteProspects page list him at 5’11, 168 lbs. As we can see on that site, Likhachyov came up through the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl system, starting with their youth team Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl.
In 2016-17, Likhachyov led the Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl U16 team with 37 goals, 31 assists, and 68 points in 30 games. Across the Russian U16 league, those numbers were good for 4th in points and 3rd in points per game with a 2.27 rate. He would also help the Russian U16 team capture a Gold Medal at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival that season with 6 goals and 9 assists across 4 games.
In 2017-18, he would split his domestic season between the Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl U17 team in the Russian U17 league and the Loko-Yunior Yaroslavl team in the Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga B (NMHL) which from my understanding is essentially a junior B league. He led his U17 team and league with 16 goals, 24 assists, and 40 points in 22 games. He finished 5th on his NMHL team in scoring despite playing in about half of the games as his teammates with 7 goals and 10 assists in 15 regular season games. In the playoffs he had 3 goals and 5 assists in 8 games. Likhachyov once agains excelled in international play with 4 goals and 10 assists in 10 games for the Russian U17 team. This strong performance led to him being selected in the 1st round, 22nd overall by the Gatineau Olympiques in the 2018 CHL Import Draft.
This past season was his first in North America. Overall, he would finish the regular season with 12 goals, 12 assists, an 11.1 SH%, and a 1.89 SH/GP rate in 57 regular season games. He had no goals, 2 assists, and 10 shots in 5 playoff games as Gatineau quickly saw their season come to an end. It’s worth noting that he started his QMJHL career off with a bang by notching 2 goals and 2 assists in his first game before going on a cold streak. Over his first 17 games he would put up 2 goals, 3 assists, a 7.14 SH%, and a 1.65 SH/GP rate. Over his final 40 regular season games he would put up 10 goals, 9 assists, a 12.50 SH%, and a 2.00 SH/GP rate so he definitely did pick it up once he adjusted to the new league and surroundings.
Likhachyov also had plenty of international experience this past season. He represented the Russian U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and put up 3 goals and 4 assists in 5 games as they captured a Bronze Medal. At the U18 World Junior Championship he had no goals and 2 assists in 6 games as the Russian U18 team won Silver Medal. He also made 4 appearances for the Russian U18 team at the World Junior A Challenge where they lost the Championship game.
Where is Yaroslav Likhachyov Ranked?
- NHL Central Scouting Services: North America - 106 (Midterm), North America - 166 (Final)
- Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst: 33 (Preseason 400, August 2018), 132 (Midseason 400, December 2018), 106-North America (Top 500, April 2019)
- Larry Fisher - The Hockey Writers: 18 (Top 124, October 2018), 47 (Top 186, December 2018), 77 (Top 217, February 2019), 95 (Top 300, April 2019), 94 (Top 350, May 2019)
As we can see from the above rankings, Likhachyov saw his draft stock steadily decline as the year progressed. This wasn’t as drastic on the Central Scouting list but it’s clear that going into the year both Steve Kournianos and Larry Fisher viewed Likhachyov as a prospect that could go towards the end of the 1st round. In the end he finished as late round prospect on Kournianos’ board and a mid-round prospect on Fisher’s board.
What Others Say About Yaroslav Likhachyov
Back in November, Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet ranked Likhachyov 18th for the draft and had this short blurb on the prospect:
The smaller ice is forcing him to think the game and make plays quicker. Stick skills are multi-dimensional.
It’s not surprising to see that the smaller ice was forcing him to adjust his game. Perhaps that had a lot to do with his early struggles as his skill was still evident.
On December 1, Andy Lehoux of Future Considerations had this to say about Likhachyov:
Likhachyov is a flashy and skilled offensive forward. The Russian winger is not a dynamic player, but he is most certainly an exciting one. With his incredible hands, he can dangle anybody and it’s just so seamless. He is easily one of, if not the most skill 2019 eligible prospect of the QMJHL. He has a great vision and creates a lot of scoring chances for his teammates by attracting the opponent with quick dangles to then feed his linemates in the slot. His wrist shot is above average, but he uses it with so unpredictability that he sometimes surprises goalies. He has an above average speed, but some great edges and quick turns. The knock on him, though, is his very poor strength. He sometimes gets blocked on his stickhandling moves simply because of his poor upper body strength and he will rarely get involved along the boards. He often cheats on zone exits and he is not very involved in the defensive play, either.
I’m intrigued to learn that Likhachyov is an exciting, skilled player that can create scoring chances and thrilling plays. I’m not shocked to learn that strength is an issue for him, especially on the smaller ice in North America, as he is yet to put on more muscle and fill out his frame. Hopefully that is something he can work on as he continues his development. I’d also hope that he can put more of an effort into his defensive game going forward as he hasn’t been consistent enough offensively to have it be something that you could look past.
Bill Placzek of DraftSite had this short description of Likhachyov’s game:
Under six foot speedster with a quick release, ability to turn in tight areas, and his a confident puckhandler. Prior to his QMJHL debut, he introduced himself by way of a brilliant performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. The under six foot right winger displays high end speed and puck handling skills. Steps around defenders and has soft passing hands.
It definitely seems like Likhachyov has plenty of skill though he still needs to develop his overall game.
In December, Larry Fisher of The Hockey Writers had this to say about his biggest faller for the draft:
For Likhachyov, inconsistency and a lack of production are hurting his stock — much like Dmitry Zavgorodniy last season, who fell all the way to the Flames in the seventh round (198th overall), but look at him now.
I really liked Likhachyov at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and it’s not easy adjusting to the North American game — let alone the lifestyle changes off the ice — so I’m not giving up on Likhachyov by any means. He’s still a quality prospect, even if he’s been slipping down my rankings month over month after starting out as a first-rounder.
It seems like it could be worth a shot at using a late round pick on a prospect with as high of a ceiling as Likhachyov.
A Little Video
The above video features highlights from his strong Hlinka Gretzky Cup where plenty of his flashy skill is on display.
An Opinion of Sorts
I find Likhachyov to be an intriguing prospect for a few reasons. Despite a rough rookie season in the QMJHL, he was high up on a few draft boards entering the season so he certainly did enough prior to this season to make an impression on the scouting community. I like that he is a creative, exciting player that is able to use his hands, vision, puckhandling abilities, and skating to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates. I also like that his wrist shot can be a bit deceptive and fool goaltenders.
What does worry me about his game is his inconsistency to produce points, lack of strength, and subpar defensive game. Now, he could bulk up off the ice and find a way to utilize that new strength on the ice. He can work hard to commit to becoming a better defensive player as he develops over the next few years. It does seem like that for all of his flashy skill, being able to produce on a night in, night out basis could be harder to fix. With all that said, I wouldn’t want the Devils to target him with anything other than a 7th round pick. I have no problem taking a boom or bust prospect in the final round of the draft but would rather avoid attempting it any earlier.
What are your thoughts on Yaroslav Likhachyov as a prospect? Would you be in favor of seeing the Devils select him with a late round pick? Are there any parts of his game that stand out to you in a positive or negative way? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!