Jakob Chychrun is a big kid. He’s only 18, but at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he’s not your typical teenager.
The fact Chychrun has an NHL-ready physique is part of the reason he’ll reportedly remain with the Arizona Coyotes for more than nine games this season, thus triggering the start of his entry-level contract.
The alternative is to send him back to junior, though considering he logged 23:39 in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over San Jose, that seems unlikely.
“I’ve worked so hard on my physical fitness and my skating for so many years and I think it has served me well to smooth that transition to the NHL,” Chychrun told Arizona Sports. “I feel with my size and strength and skating ability at this age, it has helped me not feel like I am out of place.”
There have only been a handful of 18-year-old defensemen who’ve lasted a full season in the NHL. The last was Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, who was pretty big and strong himself at that age. Others on the list include Hall of Famers Scott Stevens, Phil Housley and the one and only Bobby Orr.
Chychrun was drafted 16th overall in June, with a pick Arizona traded up to get from Detroit.
Mark Glavin, the assistant general manager of Chychrun’s junior team in Sarnia, told the National Post that Chychrun would’ve been drafted earlier in the first round if he hadn’t been “under the microscope since he was 14 years old,” giving scouts so much time to pick his game apart.
“We felt that he probably didn’t deserve to fall that far, and he’s proving that right now,” said Glavin. “Credit Arizona for that pick.”
The Coyotes have two other teenagers that may or may not get sent back to junior. Forwards Lawson Crouse, 19, and Dylan Strome, 19, have played six and four games, respectively, so the clock is ticking on them.
Of the two, Crouse may be more likely to stay. Like Chychrun, he’s physically ready, while Strome has the talent, but still needs to get bigger and stronger.
But in the end, all three of the teenagers may stay, with the Coyotes choosing to develop them at the NHL level, as opposed to sending them back to a level where they have nothing much to prove.
The probable forward lines, per NHL.com:
Domi – Martinook – Vrbata
McGinn – Strome – Duclair
Rieder – Richardson – Doan
Crouse – Dvorak – White