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About Last Season: Valentin Zykov Performance Review and Grade

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When he was finally given the chance, Valentin Zykov proved that he can hang around with the big boys.

Jamie Kellner

Valentin Zykov: 2017-18 By The Numbers

  • Age: 22
  • NHL Seasons: <1
  • Games Played: 10 (62 in AHL)
  • Scoring: 3g—4a—7pts (33g—21a—54pts in AHL)
  • Ice Time: 13:42 all situations, 12:24 ES, 1:00 PP, 0:00 PK
  • 5-on-5 Stats: 58.9% CF, 66.7% GF
  • Contract Status: RFA, finished final year of ELC (AAV $894,167)

Making the Grade

Two years ago, the Carolina Hurricanes decided to pack it in and sell hard ahead of the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline.

Among the deals that then second-year general manager Ron Francis made was one that sent pending unrestricted free agent winger Kris Versteeg to the playoff-bound Los Angeles Kings. In return, the Canes got a conditional draft pick and a prospect who was considered to be trending downward due to a disappointing - and injury-plagued - rookie campaign in the AHL.

That prospect was Valentin Zykov.

Today, the 2013 37th-overall draft pick is the reigning AHL goal leader and, after an impressive ten-game stint with the big club down the stretch, an important piece of what the Hurricanes will attempt to build moving forward.

From the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Zykov set up shop atop the AHL goal-scoring list, but that fact came with an asterisk - his remarkably high shooting percentage. As the months wore on and the big Russian winger kept piling up goals, everyone patiently waited for him to come back to Earth, and he never did.

Six and a half months into the season, at a point where the playoffs were out of the realm of realism, the Hurricanes finally gave Zykov a look. In his second career NHL stint, Zykov quickly proved that his lofty AHL numbers wasn’t a series of good luck or a byproduct of being on an offensively dominant Charlotte club - it was legitimate.

Upon being lined up with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen (Carolina’s top point producers and breakout stars this past season), Zykov broke out in a big way. His oft criticized slow foot speed certainly didn’t stand in the way between him and an outburst of three goals and five points over a three-game stretch in late March and seven total points in a string of eight games before seeing south of ten minutes of ice time in Carolina’s final game of the season - a 3-2 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 11.

The stat line was very impressive for Zykov, albeit in a relatively small sample size. The underlying numbers were even more promising, though, as his possession numbers, expected goal share, and actual goal share suggested that he wasn’t just treading water at the NHL level; he was excelling.

When it was all said and done, he found the back of the net 36 times in 72 games between the NHL and AHL in 2017-18 and, despite spending more than three weeks in the NHL at the end of the season, took home the AHL goal title. He will look to keep the good times rolling as he and the Checkers start their quest for the Calder Cup on Friday.

This was a crucial year for Zykov and his development. A pedestrian season would have likely put him in the “tweener” category in the eyes of a lot of people, but his breakout campaign will likely push him to the front of the line outside of PNC Arena for an NHL job next season.

Despite the expiration of his entry-level contract looming over the horizon, he will be a restricted free agent and his rights will remain with the team if they so choose (they will). Expect him to be brought back on a one or two-year pact this summer, likely on a one-way deal similar to what Brock McGinn was given. Though, Zykov’s phenomenal year could land him a bigger pay day than McGinn’s sub-$900k AAV.

It looks like the Canes have something in this soon-to-be 23-year-old power winger. He has shed the “high-upside prospect who got derailed by injuries” narrative and regained his footing as an exciting prospect with worthwhile upside. He utilizes his 225-pound frame in the dirty areas and goes to the front of the net to make life difficult for opposing goalies. To boot, his hard, accurate wrist shot should make him a quality goal-scoring threat in the NHL, especially with Carolina’s lengthy list of play-making forwards likely growing with the anticipated arrivals of Janne Kuokkanen, Lucas Wallmark, and Martin Necas next season.


Poll

How do you grade Valentin Zykov’s 2017-18 performance?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    A - outstanding performance
    (126 votes)
  • 50%
    B - above average performance
    (135 votes)
  • 1%
    C - average performance
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    D - below average performance
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F - significantly below average performance
    (1 vote)
265 votes total Vote Now