2022-23 team: Chelmet Chelyabinsk (VHL)
Date of Birth: July 14, 2005
Place of Birth: Magnitogorsk, Russia
Height: 5-foot-11, Weight: 170 pounds
Position: Right Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: First-year draft eligible
- NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters): 23rd
- Elite Prospects: 47th
- Daily Faceoff: 58th
- Recruit Scouting: 34th
- Smaht Scouting: 51st
- The Hockey Writers (Horn): 61st
- The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 93rd
Alexander Rykov is a Russian winger who spent most of the 2022-23 season with Chelmet Chelyabinsk in the VHL — the Russian equivalent of the AHL. He totaled four goals and 11 points in 20 games with Chelmet and even played in a few games for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL, where he had no points in six appearances.
The best part of Rykov’s game isn’t necessarily his offensive makeup, despite being a winger. Instead, it’s his two-way play and effort away from the puck. He’s a strong forechecker who will create trouble for opposing defensemen, leading to turnovers and regaining puck possession for his team. At the other end of the rink, he shows elusiveness and escapability when the puck is on his stick in the defensive zone.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
While Rykov is not a flashy offensive player, he has skill and can create scoring chances off the rush. His skating needs work, as it’d probably be considered NHL average at the moment. Having said that, he doesn’t turn 18 until July, making him one of the younger players in this draft. He has plenty of time to work on his skating, especially since he’s at least a couple of years away from playing in the NHL.
Though Rykov’s production did tail off slightly at the end of his time in the VHL, his scoring rate was at one point the best among players to play in the VHL during their U18 season, placing him slightly ahead of Valeri Nichushkin, who’s become a star for the Colorado Avalanche:
That doesn’t mean Rykov will be the next Nichushkin. He’s 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, so he’s a much different player than Nichushkin. With that said, there is some upside. He’s already a pretty polished forward for a player his age. If he can keep developing his offensive toolkit over the years, there’s a good chance he’ll make an NHL lineup one day.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Alexander Rykov — NHL Draft Projection
Most draft rankings have Rykov projected somewhere in the second round, perhaps in the early part of the third. He may not have a ton of offensive upside, but he has a polished two-way game and is one of the younger plays in the 2023 draft with a July 2005 birthdate. He has plenty of room to develop, so taking a chance on him in the second round seems reasonable.
“An energetic, smart, and defensively responsible forward, Rykov probably won’t have a massive offensive impact in the NHL, but he’ll bring some decent speed and a good motor, along with a smart, well-rounded, and relatively low-risk game. He doesn’t excel at any one particular thing, but he’s just solid across the board, and he thinks the game well. He’s elusive, especially along the boards, he spins off checks well and accelerates quickly to escape pressure…” – Gray Matter, Smaht Scouting.
“Rykov doesn’t just play well away from the puck when in pursuit or defending, he’s also a good off-puck player on offense. Rykov has a natural ability to find soft spots in defensive coverage and get open for centering passes. He does this both in the middle of the ice and down around the net, which puts him in good situations to act as the finisher on his line. His shot is just okay for now, and will require work if he’s going to play as a finisher vs. a creator or connector. Rykov’s skating is solid and doesn’t look too out of place when compared to his VHL peers. He does lack the required knee bend required, and isn’t the most creative skater, especially when he carries the puck.” – Jordan Harris, Dobber Prospects.
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“Rykov is a toolsy winger whose mature, focused game revolves around puck transition and space creation. He’s not flashy and won’t make any highlight reel plays, but his composure and mind for the ice opens up opportunities for him and his linemates. His hands in tight are impressive as well, mainly as a weapon to weave through traffic on the fly…” – Jake Janso, FC Hockey.
- Two-way game
- Play away from the puck
Under Construction — Improvements to Make
- Adding more power to his shot
- Developing his offensive arsenal
It’s unlikely Rykov turns into a top-six winger, but the tools are there for him to become an NHLer. If he adds more offensive weapons to his arsenal, he could be a well-rounded two-way winger who does a bit of everything at an above-average rate as a third-liner.
Risk: 3/5, Reward: 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense: 6.5/10, Defense: 7/10