Look Out Auston Matthews, You Have Company

True, elite number one defensemen are very hard to find.

Just look at this NHL season as an example. Several teams could use a boost on their blue line. But at this time of season, trades are hard to come by. The price is too high.

That’s why when a potential franchise defensemen enters the draft, teams take notice. It might be their only chance to get an elite talent like that into their organization.

What if I told you that there is someone in this upcoming draft who many think is better than Aaron Ekblad? You interested? You should be.

What if I told you that he is just as much of a threat offensively as he is defensively? What if I told you that he is elite in all three zones? What if I told you he plays over 30 minutes a night, and enjoys it?

Sounds like the real deal. Jakob Chychrun is the real deal. He was kind enough to spend a few minutes with us after Sarnia’s recent trip to Erie. We talked about the upcoming season, his recovery from his shoulder injury, and if he thinks he is the best player in this upcoming draft.

The Hockey Writers: Your team is off to a good start this season. Give us your assessment of how the Sting have done in their first 14 games?

Chychrun: Good. We have a new coaching staff this year, and I think that the boys have responded very well to them. Since they’ve stepped in, it’s been a great change. We are a young team. We had a great start, tough weekend here (in Erie) but we’ll bounce back.

THW: Your team plays in a very tough conference, with teams like Erie, Kitchener, London, and Windsor all playing there. You guys also have a pretty good team. How good do you think you can be this season given how tough the competition is?

Chychrun: We expect to win our division. I think last year we wanted to be competitive and we were very young. We have an extra year of experience now. We are going to set the bar high on ourselves because we know what we can do. We’ll keep continuing to get better as a group here.


Recovery From Shoulder Injury

THW: You have several games under your belt this season. How is that shoulder holding up for you now?

Chychrun: It’s great. I’m glad that I can focus on other stuff now. It was a long offseason, it’s part of the game. I’m glad that I’m 100% finally. Last year was a battle, but it’s good to be back. It’s good to get this year started.

THW: Great to see that you are healthy again. That said, you have reportedly played upwards of 33 minutes a game on some nights. How have you been able to “shoulder” that extra responsibility?

Chychrun: I love it. As a player, you want to be put out there in all situations. I’m doing my best to prove that I can play in every situation on the ice. I look at it as a challenge. It’s fun to me to be able to play a lot, see a lot of different players, and do my best to shut them down.

The Best In The Draft?

THW: Some have mentioned that you are more impressive than Aaron Ekblad was at the same time in development. We all know how great a player he is. When you hear something like this, how do you feel?

Chychrun: It’s awesome. I look up to a guy like Aaron. I had the chance to meet him a couple of years ago. He’s a great guy. I watch him a lot. It’s special to hear things like that. I know how hard he works and how hard it was for him to get to where he is today. I know what I have to do and how hard I have to work to do the same.

THW: All of the talk leading up to this draft will involve yourself, and Auston Matthews. Do you feel like that you’re the best player in this upcoming draft?

Chychrun: I think everybody likes to think that they are (the best). Obviously, it’s the same way for me. It’s tough to compare a defenseman to a forward. I’m trying to focus on the day to day things that are going to help me this year. The draft is so far away. I’m just focused on the here and now.

THW: Finally, what do you feel like is the biggest improvement that you need to make in your game moving forward?

Chychrun: (Long pause) I focus on every aspect of the game. I don’t think there’s just one thing that you focus on more than others. I focus on all three zones really. My skating is always big, I love working on my skating. At the end of practices, they bring in Derian Hatcher, hockey legend, (to work with us). He’s been great, not only with me, but with the other defensemen. He gives us little tips everyday in practice. It’s going to be great working the whole year with him.

We thank Jakob for spending some time with us. Whoever is fortunate enough to draft him is getting a franchise defenseman. Matthews is getting all the attention, deservedly so. But Chychrun is not that far behind him. Anyone who is potentially better than Ekblad, is in some elite company. Matthews still likely goes first, but Chychrun will give him all he can handle, and then some.