Chychrun following in father’s footsteps

Aaron Vickers2016 Draft Center

Born in LaSalle, Quebec, and playing his junior hockey with the OHL’s Kingston Canadians from 1983 through 1986, Jeff Chychrun had a promising career ahead of him as a big, physically punishing defenseman who was, despite his 6-foot-4 frame, a surprisingly fluid skater.

Over the next eight years, Jeff Chychrun would go on to defend against the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman in the NHL, and drop the gloves with notorious tough guys such as Bob Probert, Wendel Clark, Shane Churla and Scott Stevens. He had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as part of the Pittsburgh Penguins team that captured it in 1992, but not long after, head injuries would prematurely put an end to his promising career.

Fast forward 20 years, and there is another young, big-bodied defender with the nameplate Chychrun on his back patrolling the ice.

Jakob Chychrun, Jeff’s son, is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound two-way defenseman who shares his father’s ability to throw his weight around. What Jakob also has that his father did not, is the ability to play the finesse game with soft hands and impressive offensive instincts as a 15-year-old.

Jakob, who will be selected first overall by the Sarnia Sting in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, grew up in South Florida, where the family settled after his father’s playing career, but naturally, he chose skates and sticks over the surf and sun of his surroundings.

He is a product of the Florida Jr. Panthers programs and later played in Michigan as part of the Little Caesars program, where he was able to develop his game with kids more up to his level of skill before spending this season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens Minor Midget AAA team.

His current head coach, John Winstanley of the Jr. Canadiens, sees a potential impact player at the next level every time Jakob suits up for his squad.

“Jakob is the type of kid who walks into a dressing room and instantly becomes an integral part of the group,” noted Winstanley. “He is a leader by example, but vocal when needed. He has had a big impact on our team since day one. Adding him to an already strong D-core really allowed us to push the pace of the game and play the type of style that has led to success.”

The scouting report on Jakob Chychrun tells of a kid who has a bright future ahead of him.

“Jakob has the ability to be a game-changer at both ends of the ice,” says Winstanley. “He is very gifted offensively, but is also very strong away from the puck. His physical ability makes him an imposing player to play against all over the ice. He will be a guy coaches count on to run the power play and help generate offense from the back-end.”

He continues: “Jakob has many strengths as a player, from his heavy shot to his skating, but in my opinion, his biggest strength as a player is his ability to see the ice and make plays. He is a mature player for his age. His weakness at times can be that he tries to do too much. He is always looking to create something and be involved in the play, which at times, has him focusing too heavily on the offensive side of the puck.”

Future Considerations evaluators, including Nick Perri who covers the Eastern U.S., are also high on this man-child, especially after seeing him recently compete as an underage player at the World U17 Hockey Challenge.

“He is pretty speedy for a bigger defenseman, and has decent mobility and foot-speed. Chychrun rushes the puck with confidence, using his speed and strength to bust past forecheckers and out of his own end. He shows off some great hands and quickness with the puck, and he was able to create scoring off the rush with his passing. Chychrun is learning to be steady in his physical approach, making good contact down low and along the half-boards, but keeping it smart and safe so not to be caught out of position,” says Perri.

All these elements add up to Jakob being the unequivocal top prospect in the OHL Priority Selection.

While his father’s career was cut short due to concussions and the lack of knowledge on how to deal with brain injuries, Jakob Chychrun looks primed to have a long career ahead of him.