The march through the Bruins prospects stable continues with Boston’s 5th-rounder last June, a flyer pick out of Russia who has the skills to translate to the modern NHL…if he ever comes over.- KL
Roman Bychkov, D Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Boston’s 3rd choice (5th round), 154th overall in 2019 NHL Entry Draft
Strengths: Left-shot D is an excellent skater who moves with fluid agility and has some real jump in his first couple of steps. Closes on pucks quickly in retrievals and effortlessly manages his gaps as he backs up against speed. Able to escape an aggressive forecheck with a nifty wiggle/shift and crisp edging to maintain balance and momentum. Superb puckhandler and passer- makes outlets and breakouts look easy. Intelligent and poised with the puck. Activates smartly and brings a confident, playmaking mindset in the offensive zone to step and pinch to boost the possession game. Plays with some jam and F-U…borderline dirty at times, but you have to like the competitiveness- he’s not going to be intimidated.
Weaknesses: Average size- (as is case with most his age) lacking in functional strength. Needs to improve his defensive reads and show more assertiveness when defending the rush. Stick is just OK- will get caught in passivity at times, allowing puck carriers to get around him and generate shots on net.
Overall analysis: When you’re picking second-to-last in every round and didn’t have 2nd and 4th selections, a player like Bychkov is an interesting swing of the draft bat. Playing in Russia’s top junior league, he’s a productive 2-way defenseman and power play weapon who is a breakout machine and uses his superb mobility and skills to get pucks north and in transition. If he were a little bigger and more effective in his own end, you would’ve heard a lot more about him in pre-draft circles, but he was solid at the 2018 World Jr. A Challenge and while not a star player on a loaded Russian team that lost the gold medal game to Team USA in Bonnyville, we like Boston’s thinking here.
Projection: Bychkov is a project player who has an intriguing ceiling if he can mature and better develop his defensive play, because he’s aces in terms of having the wheels and with the puck on his stick is a difference-maker at this level. He’s going to need time to play pro hockey in Russia and then likely break in slowly with Providence in a couple of years. When you’re talking about a pick that happened closer to the 6th round than the 5th, this is a player you can get behind to track going forward.
While we’re not seeing top-3 D potential at the NHL level right now, the tools are there for him to evolve into something closer if he addresses the shortcomings in his raw, but projectable game. Think of him as a similar kind of player to a poor man’s Vince Dunn– offensively capable, but the defense is a work in progress and not going to play a lot of minutes early on. Let’s face it- if teams felt he had that kind of potential (Dunn was a second-round pick), he would not have been on the board at 154, but he’s not one of those safe/high-floor players either- we get the sense that Bychkov will play his way into the mix with Boston, or we won’t ever even see him get close. But that payoff could be worth the wait.
Not much video out there on Bychkov that I am allowed to post, but here’s a YouTube clip from his 16-YO season- he’s No. 8 and on PP watch his lateral mobility and quick release to get the puck to the net from the point for the tip-goal. Smooth. (At about 2:25 of the video)
Again- on first Russian goal vs Finland (second assist), you can see how poised he is in the offensive zone- aggressively pinches down and works the puck to the net; after a rebound, the play is finished off. Easy to talk about, harder to execute.