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Nikita Chibrikov: 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; A Playmaking, Highly Competitive Winger

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Nikita Chibrikov is perhaps the top Russian prospect available in the 2021 NHL Draft. This winger is more of a playmaker than goal scorer and brings leadership and competitiveness to the table. This profile will take a closer look at the Russian U18 Captain.

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Nikita Chibrikov is one of the top Russian players available in the 2021 Draft. It’s possible he may be available for the Devils to select with their second 1st round pick.
Photo by ANDREAS HILLERGREN/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

The 2021 NHL Draft could see three Russian prospects selected in the opening round. Depending on who you ask, either Nikita Chibrikov or Fyodor Svechkov, both forwards, will be the first Russian player off the board. Daniil Chayka, a defenseman, is expected to be the third Russian selected in the draft. In today’s post in our draft prospect profile series, we will take a look at Chibrikov. This player, capable of playing on either wing, is a playmaker, leader, and competitor. His combination of skill and character has seen him excel at the junior level, play at the professional level, and serve as Russia’s captain at the U18 World Championships. It can be hard to project Russian based prospects, but Chibrikov certainly has the talent to be a first round talent. Perhaps he could be on the Devils radar if he was to still be available for their second first round pick. Let’s get to know more about this player now.

Who is Nikita Chibrikov?

According to his Elite Prospects profile, Nikita Chibrikov is a 5’10”, 172 lbs. left-handed shooting winger. He was born on February 16, 2003 in Moscow, Russia. He plays for the SKA St. Petersburg club and spent last season split between the KHL, VHL (2nd tier), and MHL (junior). Here are the links to his KHL, VHL, and MHL profile pages.

As we can see from his profile on Elite Prospects, he hasn’t always been a member of SKA St. Petersburg. His youth team is listed as CSKA Moscow but it appears he spent much of his development time with Dynamo Moscow. In 2017-18, his age 14 season, he put up 9 goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 22 games for Dynamo Moscow U16. He ranked 4th in scoring among U15 players in the Russian U16 league that season.

In 2018-19, his age 15 season, he mainly spent time with Dynamo Moscow U16 but did play once for the U17 team and a bit for the U18 team. In his second year of action at the U16 level, he put up 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points in 21 games. He was 2nd on his team in scoring, 3 points behind Prokhor Poltapov, though Chibrikov played in 3 less games. Among players with at least 20 games played in Russia’s U16 league, Chibrikov’s 2.57 points per game rate was the best in the league. In 7 games with the Dynamo Moscow U18 team in Russia’s U18 league, Chibrikov put up 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points. It’s a small sample size but his 2.14 points per game rate ranked 3rd among U16 players in the U18 league. In international action, he suited up 16 times for Russia’s U16 team and put up 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points.

In his pre-draft season of 2019-20, Chibrikov made the jump to the MHL (top junior league) for MHK Dynamo Moscow. He played in 32 games with 3 goals, 13 assists, +2, 8 PIM, 2.6 shots per game, 3.6 SH%, and averaged 14:18. Among U17 players to play in at least 20 games in the MHL that season, Chibrikov’s 0.50 points per rate ranked 2nd. He was behind Prokhor Poltapov whose 0.52 points per game rate (in 23 games) ranked 1st. In international play, he was a mainstay for Russia’s U17 team with 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 13 games across various competitions. In the World U17 Hockey Challenge, he helped Russia capture a Gold Medal by putting up 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in 6 games. He was tied for 2nd in scoring on that Russian team, just one point behind Daniil Lazutin for the lead.

His draft season of 2020-21 would provide plenty of change and opportunity. On June 1, 2020, he was traded to SKA St. Petersburg as part of a package for KHL veteran Dmitri Kagarlitsky. Chibrikov would experience professional hockey for the first time by playing for both the KHL and VHL (2nd tier) teams. He also continued to play a bit of junior hockey in the MHL. In 16 KHL games, Chibrikov had a goal, assist, even rating, 6 PIM, 0.5 shots per game, 12.5 SH%, and averaged 7:44. In 20 VHL games he had 3 goals, 5 assists, -7, 49 PIM, 2.8 shots per game, 5.5 SH%, and averaged 15:54. Those 8 points put him 3rd in scoring among U18 players in the VHL. His 0.40 points per game rate led all U18 players in the VHL. In 11 MHL games, Chibrikov had 3 goals, 6 assists, +2, 12 PIM, 2.8 shots per game, 9.7 SH%, and averaged 13:55. Chibrikov also had an eventful World U18 Championship by serving as Captain of Russia’s U18 team as they took home a Silver Medal. He had 4 goals and 9 assists for 13 points in 7 games. He led the tournament in assists and was named a Top 3 Player on Russia.

Where is Nikita Chibrikov Ranked?

Below you can see how the public outlets rank Chibrikov. He is regarded as one of the top skaters from Europe in this year’s draft and it seems like he could go anywhere from the mid-1st round to the latter part of the 1st round based on these rankings. Where he ranks on the various NHL teams’ draft boards could be another story though.

What Others Say About Nikita Chibrikov

Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting has this in-depth report on Nikita Chibrikov. He breaks down Chibrikov’s game by style of play, offense, defense, transitional play, physicality/grit, skating, and then offers a comparison as well as a projection. Here are a few notes that stood out to me.

Regarding his offense:

Chibrikov loves to drive to net-front. He will consistently look to drive to net-front with or without the puck. It doesn’t matter if it’s mid-cycle or off the rush, Chibrikov skates hard to the net.

While Chibrikov thrives at the pushing attackers when he doesn’t have possession of the puck there are instances especially when facing defenders on the rush, in which he struggles to exert his strength and maneuver the puck around the defender.

When Chibrikov is in the offensive zone on the forecheck, he uses his lengthy skate extensions to muster up the appropriate speed to chase after the puck carrier and implements strong pressure once he has arrived at the carrier.

From a passing perspective, Chibrikov has sequences where he doesn’t take the time to identify a passing lane and randomly makes ill-advised passes...While he does struggle with his decision making, there are sequences where he utilizes good puck manipulation skills to draw attackers to him, thus creating open space for his teammates and will then feather a pass to the teammate.

Chibrikov has a smooth delivery on his shot. He will keep the stick blade open and generate height to get the puck top shelf.

This report is very thorough and I only picked out a few parts so there is quite a bit to unpack. I certainly recommend checking out the full report from Smaht Scouting. Overall, it seems that the skilled, physical Chibrikov likes to be hard to play against in the offensive zone from a physical standpoint. He seems to excel on the forecheck and an in getting shots off with his solid shot. However, it does seem that he could use some work in refining his passing game and decision making.

Regarding his defense:

Chibrikov loves playing tight man-on-man defense and will start to exert dominance in the neutral zone...

Chibrikov is quite quick on his feet when it comes to defensive decision making...

Chibrikov possesses strong defensive positioning and will often line up at the perimeter.

There is a lot more in the report than what I just selected above but overall, you get the impression that Chibrikov is a solid defender for a winger.

Regarding his physicality/grit:

When it comes to Chibrikov’s physicality, it’s there. Trust me it’s there. I see the grit. He can get under your skin. Given his compete level, he’s puck hungry and will push players for the puck.

This isn’t usually something you would highlight with a skilled player like Chibrikov, but it is a large part of his game and something that makes him stand out from other skilled forwards. In terms of style of play, Tessler even mentions Chibrikov’s game in comparison to Brady Tkachuk, Matthew Tkachuk and Brad Marchand. Tessler does note that Chibrikov will need to put on muscle to be more effective with his physical game at the NHL level though.

Regarding his skating:

I raved earlier about Chibrikov’s ability to accelerate, but I’m not quite done yet. His two leg extensions when gaining momentum and acceleration are well-timed...

He has good use of inside edges and complete a hard stop on a dime. His crossovers are tight and can also be used to generate acceleration as a stepping stone off of a turn. But, sometimes, he will struggle with outside edge deployment.

It is encouraging to read that he can accelerate quickly and effectively. As Tessler notes, Chibrikov needs to improve his skating when it comes to his outside edges to improve his balance.

Regarding his comparison and projection, Tessler notes that Chibrikov’s style of play is comparable to Brad Marchand due to his “transitional play and grittiness.” Tessler notes that Chibrikov is unlikely to hit the high production that Marchand is capable of but is a potential “top six NHL winger.”

Next, we have this scouting report from Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports. He breaks down the prospect’s game by skating, offense, defense, and then offers a projection as well as comparison. Here are a few parts that stood out to me:

Regarding his skating:

While his first few steps and acceleration could use a little work, as they are just slightly above average, once he reaches top speed he is really moving. He can beat defenders wide on the rush and cut to the front of the net. A slippery player both with and without the puck, Chibrikov has excellent agility and edgework.

Kerr’s report slightly differs to Tessler’s from above when it comes to the acceleration and edgework of Chibrikov. It is quite possible that they viewed him in different games hence the differing reports. Both seem to like his skating though and don’t see it being a problem area for him, though it could use some more development.

Regarding his offense:

Chibrikov is a very good playmaker. He has excellent vision and anticipation, reading the play and anticipating the movements of his teammates and opponents. When a scoring opportunity presents itself, he finds his man and gets him the puck...

Chibrikov can also score goals. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. His hands allow him to vary the angle of that release, fooling goaltenders. He can do a quick toe-drag before getting his shot off. Chibrikov also has an accurate snap shot. He could add more muscle and improve the power on these shots.

From an offensive skills standpoint, it seems that Chibrikov has the passing and shooting skills to develop into a top six winger. I get the impression that as he fills out with more muscle, his game will likely reach a higher level.

Regarding his defense:

Chibrikov’s attention to detail in the defensive zone could use some work. He tends to puck watch a little, not keeping his feet moving and losing his man. His lack of size can also be an issue when working down low against a cycling forward.

This report isn’t as high on Chibrikov’s defensive game as Tessler’s was. Based on this report, it seems that Chibrikov can lose focus from time to time in his own zone. At least that is something that coaching and experience can fix. The lack of size is noteworthy but something that doesn’t concern me too much since Chibrikov is likely to add muscle to his frame over the next few years.

Regarding his projection and comparison:

Chibrikov could become a top-six winger if he reaches his potential. Chibrikov’s game is reminiscent of T.J. Oshie. This is a stylistic comparison only though, not one based on skill and ability.

This report also agrees with Smaht Scouting that Chibrikov has the potential to be a top six winger.

Next, we will move over to Dobber Prospects to see what two different scouts have to say about Chibrikov. Here is some of what Nick Richard had to say about the prospect back in January:

Chibrikov is a fantastic skater who manufactures chances with strong transitional play, creating controlled exits from the defensive zone and clean entries into the offensive zone with consistency. He has good instincts in all three zones, provides puck support when needed, and does not hesitate to engage physically despite his small stature...He has a good shot and solid puck skills but can be forced into mistakes when his time and space is taken away. He competes hard and can be quite elusive with the puck on his stick, using his low center of gravity to lean on defenders while protecting the puck.

We also have Dylan Griffing of Dobber Prospects giving his opinion on Chibrikov in their latest ranking. Here is some of what he had to say:

Nikita Chibrikov is a flashy, offensive winger with a ton of skill and deceptiveness...He’s been able to adapt well at every level he’s played at, though there are many games where his impact is very limited, mostly due to his size being an issue when playing against men and his poor off-the-puck play. Where Chibrikov really stands out is his skating ability. He can move the puck into the offensive zone and completely take control of the ice by using his edges to circle the zone.

It seems that the analysts at Dobber Prospects have a very favorable view on Chibrikov due to his skill, skating ability, and compete level. They both note that Chibrikov will need to get stronger but he has a few years before he would make the transition to the NHL so he has plenty of time to develop his strength.

Now, here is some of what Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst had to say about Chibrikov after his successful U18 World Championship:

Pegging him as a top-20 pick came rather easily in the beginning of the season after watching him quickly assert himself as a skilled and physical winger in Russia’s adult-age VHL, and that’s exactly how he played in Texas while serving as team captain. Although piling up points usually comes easy for any top forward prospect, I’m more intrigued by Chibrikov’s unruly demeanor and how he’s involved in at least one violent collision per game...Chibrikov from a production standpoint was one of the top scorers at the tournament, recording 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in seven games, and he made countless plays in the neutral zone that sprung linemates for clean zone entries or break-ins.

I do have to say that I find Chibrikov’s combo of skill and physicality intriguing, though you do wonder if it could lead to a shorter professional career than similarly skilled players. At some point, all that punishment he takes will take a toll on his body. Regardless, he is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft in my opinion.

Finally, here is what the Hockey Prospecting model thinks of Chibrikov.

The model doesn’t completely discount Chibrikov turning into a “Star” or “NHLer” but it isn’t as high on him as many scouts that view him as a 1st round talent. It can be hard to project Russian players given that so many of them play in 3 different leagues in one year like Chibrikov. The prospect has plenty of upside but it will definitely be a calculated gamble (like all draft picks) for whoever drafts him to see if he can pan out.

A Little Video

The first video we have comes from Wolf Hockey on YouTube. It features Chibrikov’s playmaking, quick shot, and physicality throughout the highlights package:

The next video comes from Draft Project on YouTube and features Chibrikov’s U18 World Championship highlights. If you want to see him at his best, then check this out:

If you want to get a better idea of how Chibrikov played against fellow junior players, then check out this shift by shift video from Duncan and Ian of Devils in the Details on YouTube. This video is from a March 22, 2021 game against Loko Yaroslavl in the MHL:

An Opinion of Sorts

I find Chibrikov to be an interesting prospect for a few reasons. First, he’s capable of playing on either wing despite being a left-handed shot. He’s also more of a playmaker than goal scorer on the wing that can facilitate his team’s offense. Sure there may be times when he tries to be too creative when moving the puck, but for the most part he’s very skilled and can anticipate the play well. I also like that despite his small frame, he isn’t afraid to mix things up physically and is willing to compete hard all over the ice. I suppose for that style of play, it’s no wonder he wore the “C” for Russia at the U18’s.

If I have any concern, it’s that his skating isn’t an above average part of his game. It seems that could hold him back from being a truly dynamic winger at the NHL level. At least that is something he can continue to work on and develop though. I do like his upside as a prospect and agree with the projections that he could potentially be a top six winger. I also find it hard sometimes to project how good some of the Russian prospects could be when they play across the KHL, VHL, and MHL in one season. On one hand I like that they get to experience three different levels of play with two of them being professional. On the other hand it’s hard to get a read on just how good they are and I imagine it could be difficult for a prospect to move back and forth all season long. With all that said, he is coming from a great club in Russia so I’m sure he’s picked up great instruction no matter the level he’s played at.

This is a player that I would have interest in with the Devils late 1st round pick. Will he make it to 29th overall (really 28th due to Arizona’s forfeited pick)? I don’t think so as I expect him to go somewhere around 15th to 20th. I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams even have him in their top 15 on their draft boards either. While the Devils could use more goal scoring wings, Chibrikov’s playmaking, physicality, and leadership make him a worthwhile prospect to take if you have the chance. I just don’t expect him to be available to them at 29th overall.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Nikita Chibrikov? What slot do you expect him to be drafted around? Would you want the Devils to target him with their late 1st round pick? Do you think there is a chance he falls into the 2nd round? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!