There’s little contesting who the Michel-Bergeron Trophy winner as Quebec Major Junior Hockey League offensive rookie of the year will be.
Baie-Comeau Drakkar winger Valentin Zykov has done everything but etch his own name on the award.
The product of St. Petersburg, Russia has had no trouble adjusting to the North American style of game after being the 76th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft. He’s had the rookie scoring race wrapped up in the QMJHL for a while now and he’s well on his way to hitting the 40-goal plateau.
“It wasn’t really tough to adapt to the new style here,” says Zykov of the transition.
Maybe that shouldn’t be much of surprise. He’s spent the past two summers in Ottawa with his agent so he has had a chance to work on his English and get acclimated with life in Canada.
Zykov started to garner attention earlier in the year with a quick start to the season. That was enough to have Team Russian dress him for a pair of games in the Subway Super Series in November. He was only one of two 1995 born players to play for Russia in the series. The other was Valeri Nichushkin.
His all-round game earned him the trip.
“He’s a complete player, good offensively, defensively and on the forecheck,” Baie-Comeau coach Eric Veilleux said. “He’s a North American player. That’s how he plays.”
Zykov has plenty of size and strength. He stands at six-foot-one, 215-pounds while playing the game with a good blend of physicality and speed to go along with his above-average shot.
He also has had the luxury of playing on a team with plenty of depth up front that has allowed him to be slotted on the team’s second line alongside Felix Girard and fellow draft eligible prospect Gabryel Paquin-Bodreau.
“He’s a sniper. When he as an opportunity (to score) he doesn’t miss,” Girard said. “What makes him so good is he is very hard (on the puck). He wins his one-on-one battles and that is why he is that good. He can create opportunities out of nothing.”
As a 16 year-old last season, Zykov played in the MHL with CSKA-Krasnaja Armija, the feeder affiliate for Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.
If Zykov – or another Russian player for that matter – drops on draft day it might be because NHL teams are worried using a high picks on a players that may not decide to stay in North America long-term.
For the time being though, Zykov isn’t worried about that. Instead, his focus is on the ice.
“The NHL draft is in the summer it’s not something I think about right now.”
Finishing business in the QMJHL, however, is.