One of the most underrated and least talked about prospects in the NHL is Henrik Rybinski, who is in the Washington Capitals’ system after several impressive seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL) playing for the Seattle Thunderbirds. He grew up playing in Western Canada where at a young age he stood out as a future offensive powerhouse and got noticed by scouts early on in his life.
While the Capitals didn’t draft Rybinski, he chose to sign with them after the Florida Panthers lost their chance. Since 2019, when he was selected in the fifth round of the draft, he has put on a show, slowly improving every season, and could become one of the team’s future studs.
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Rybinski’s Path To An NHL Contract
Rybinski was selected 136th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. While the Panthers owned his rights, they lost their chance to sign him after the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. During those three seasons, he spent his time in the WHL playing with the Thunderbirds, earning a reputation as an offensive-minded forward.
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The Vancouver, BC native played 156 games with the Thunderbirds, scoring 46 goals and 113 assists, averaging just over a point per game. Rybinski also spent time with the Medicine Hat Tigers prior to joining the Thunderbirds, including his draft year, and also played nine games for the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).
He requested a trade from the Tigers due to a lack of ice time, so while he waited for his request to be fulfilled during the 2018-19 season he went and played for the Express, scoring one goal and adding 11 assists for 12 points. He got his move to the Thunderbirds later that year and played 33 games, scoring 11 goals and adding 20 assists for 31 points.
“[Rybinski is a] puck distributing winger with a strong playmaking ability.”– DobberProspects (Henrik Rybinski Draft Profile) – 2019
His ability to move the puck and create space and opportunities for his teammates was mesmerizing. It was no surprise when teams began a bidding war over him after an impressive showing at Edmonton Oilers rookie camp in 2021-22, but he decided to sign with the Capitals.
The Capitals signed Rybinski to a three-year entry-level contract in March 2022, and he has been playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Hershey Bears since the start of the 2022-23 season. He has transitioned well to the professional level, with four goals and 12 assists for 16 points through 44 games, as well as a plus-5 rating and 18 penalty minutes.
What Does The Future Hold For Rybinski?
While Rybinski is still likely a couple of seasons away from making an impact at the NHL level, the Capitals wouldn’t have signed him if they didn’t have a plan for him. He’s drawn comparisons to Evgeny Kuznetsov as a playmaker with a pass-first mindset but has also been compared to Mathew Barzal. While these aren’t direct comparisons and shouldn’t be used as such, his style of play is similar to both players.
“Offensive forward with a solid game away from the puck. Has good size, speed and shot.”– Bill Placzek (Henrik Rybinski Draft Profile) – 2019
His only weaknesses are the defensive side of the game and his slight lack of physicality, but that’s to be expected in a young player like him. With a couple more seasons of fine-tuning his game, he could turn into a top-nine forward. His deception is impressive, and if he can find more confidence in his shot, he could become a real goal-scoring threat. I think he has a bright future, as long as he is able to improve his physicality and speed.