With the New York Rangers looking for improvements on their Blueline, prospect Yegor Rykov could be the man for the job.
Training camp is a stone’s throw away from beginning and the New York Rangers continue to fine-tune their roster.
The opportunity for Yegor Rykov to crack the lineup may be closer to a realization with the coaching staff reviewing every possibility.
The 23-year-old was a fifth-round (132nd overall) selection of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Rangers obtained him in a trade-deadline move that sent Michael Grabner to the Hudson River rivals in 2018.
A few accomplishments
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, the left-handed defenseman played in the KHL for HC Sochi with former Ranger Sergei Zubov as his head coach.
He skated in 47 games last season with HC Sochi after a trade from SKA, scoring three goals with six assists and eight penalty minutes.
Rykov was tied for second in points, and tied for third in goals and assists among KHL defensemen 22-years-old or younger. He was second on his team in ice time, averaging 19:24 per game and recorded three assists in six games helping Sochi to a Gagarin Cup championship this year.
His international resume includes a 2014 U17 Bronze Medal win, two fifth-place finishes in the 2914 IH18 and the 2015 WJC U18 team.
Rykov was a teammate of Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev on Russia’s Silver Medal-winning team at the 2016 World Junior Championships.
In May, Rykov signed an entry-level contract and is slated to start north with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Rangers are logjammed with young defenseman, which could open the door for an opportunity to show his talent.
The team currently has Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith and Marc Staal on the left side. This is where things get dicey as the status of Smith is unknown at this point. He was reunited to be the player to have his contract bought out, but now could be the one traded or demoted.
An opportunity stands before him
Would the Rangers consider another youngster to stand tall on the blue line?
They already are considering Adam Fox (21) and Libor Hajek (21) to make the squad out of camp though plenty of question lye with the two. Fox has never played an NHL game while Hajek has just appeared in five NHL games.
In June, following the draft, Rykov participated in the team’s prospect camp held in Connecticut. This was Rykov’s first time on North American ice.
The Russian acknowledged the difference in rink size and the challenge to adapt, per Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post.
“Because the rink is smaller, the speed is more dynamic here,” Rykov said. “So it’s all about the size of the rink.”
At the time of his contract signing, assistant general manager and general manager of the Wolf Pack, Chris Drury, described what the club liked as he played in the KHL, per Rick Carpinello of The Athletic. Rykov “played a ton” for Sochi after getting traded from SKA.
“His minutes were incredible in the playoffs (21:36 average), so he was counted on,” Drury said. “He’s a big heavy lefty D-man, counted on in a lot of different ways. As he got his confidence and was playing more in the KHL he was able to provide some offense. “Big thick kid, really a man’s body already.”
The Rangers have made improvements on their blue line with the addition of Jacob Trouba, but this part of the team has plenty of unanswered questions.
Rykov could be an answer to one of these questions the team desperately needs. He will most likely showcase his talent with the other prospects at the Traverse City Tournament in Michigan prior to the start of training camp.
The Russian defenseman will then have a maximum of six preseason games, should he remain with the club the whole time, to prove he is more worthy of a roster spot than Fox, Hajek or even Ryan Lindgren.
This new Rangers regime comprised of Jeff Gorton and President John Davidson has made one thing abundantly clear this offseason: The best players will play, meaning past performance is only a sidebar.
Yegor Rykov is a young player competing on a team looking for youth, energy and skill.
It could be the perfect scenario for him to hear his name introduced at Madison Square Garden in the near future.