The 2021-2022 season continues to move along for your Boston Bruins prospects playing in various leagues in Europe. With the Bruins having had their captain’s practice, rookie camp and the Prospect Challenge having been completed and main camp just moments away, those playing in Europe may have been forgotten, at least for now. But have no fear. We’re here with our Monday morning updates on the week that was.
The NCAA, where the Bruins have the greatest number of their prospects, begins their season on October 2. The OHL, in the midst of their exhibition schedule, begins their season 5 days later on October 7. The USHL, also in the midst of their exhibition schedule starts for real later this week on Thursday.
Just a reminder that our focus is on the non professional players. The AHL and ECHL are still weeks away from beginning their regular seasons, but if you’re looking for updates on those players stats you can find the Providence Bruins stats here and the Maine Mariners here. Both are of course blank for now.
Let’s talk some Roman Bychkov (long pause). It’s fair to say my comments on Matais Mantykivi were not well received last week and I was politely informed that I was too harsh on the young forward after just one game. I can accept that. If I am willing to criticize a player, then I have to respect one’s criticism of my opinion. As I have said many times on this blog, it’s about fairness and when the player does something to change my opinion, I will be the first to admit it.
If you didn’t like last weeks update on Mantykivi, then you may dislike Bychkov’s even more. The Bruins 5th round pick in 2019 – 154th overall – is still listed officially as on loan to Armur Khabarovsk of the KHL. With 6 games under his belt, it appears that he is in over his head at this level and everyone might be better served if he went back to the VHL for another season. With Armur carrying 7 blueliners and two veterans injured, that might just happen.
Bychkov was able to produce in Russia’s Under-16 and Under-17 leagues. He even contributed offensively in the MHL, Russia’s equivalent to the CHL (level not quality). During the 2020-2021 season, Bychkov got a shot with Buran Voronezh of the VHL, Russia’s equivalent to the AHL (again, level not quality). For a rookie defender, he did okay in 25 games scoring once and adding 3 helpers but was the team’s blueliners worst minus-12. That eventually got him sent back to the MHL to finish out the season.
Let’s look back at what some of the independent scouting services had to say about Bychkov back in 2019:
Bychkov is a two-way defenseman with some offensive-flare in his game. Unlike a lot of the Russian backend available in this class, Roman has legitimate offensive-tools that stood out. He can rush with the puck and use his hands in conjunction with his top-gear to beat opponents cleanly. – Hockeyprospect.com Black Book
Agile, puck-moving defenseman with good hands and an aggressive playing style. Boom-or-bust prospect. – Dobber Prospects.
He is a competent puck distributor, with soft hands, and a comfort level that is apparent when he carries it up the ice. – McKeen’s Hockey
All those scouting reports – and there are several more I didn’t quote – are not wrong. Bychkov is an excellent skater with a good burst in his first couple of strides. He can retrieve pucks quickly and is above average with the puck on his stick, able to deke out forechecking opponents. In simple terms, he has all the tools to be a one-man breakout.
His time in the KHL tells me he is not ready for prime time. The skating, as everyone mentioned is great. The offensive potential however, is not coming through. Granted, he’s playing less than 10 minutes per game – 8:51 to be precise. Bychkov has an excellent shot, but he’s not thrown into situations where he can use it.
On a bright note, he leads the blueline with a plus-2 and only one other defenseman is a plus player. But even then, we notice Bychkov having a difficult time defending against larger players. Listed at 5’11” and 183 pounds, he has some bulk to his frame but can be overpowered. Despite his plus skating, he is having a difficult time keeping his gaps close and forcing opponents to the outside. He lacks the reach with his stick to be effective with it but he could stand to have a more active stick in taking away lanes. Despite all of that, and the 8:51 TOI, he has only been on the ice for one 5v5 goal against.
Having traded their second-round pick in 2019 to the New Jersey Devils in the Marcus Johansson trade, and their fourth-round pick to the New York Rangers in the Adam McQuaid – Steven Kampfer trade, they took a swing for the fences with Bychkov here. Time is not running out, but the clock is ticking.
Bychkov won’t turn 21 until February 2022 so there is plenty of time here for him to develop and as stated earlier, the best place for him would be in the VHL – if he chooses to remain in Russia if and when the Bruins sign him to an entry level contract. Here’s my issue: If you have prospects playing in the USHL, the NCAA or the CHL, the Bruins development staff can talk to their coaches and have a discussion about where they see he needs to develop and vice versa. They can also be in regular communication with the players. Not so much in Russia.
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