The Winnipeg Jets continued to add elite offensive talent after selecting Chaz Lucius 18th overall during the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. During the second day of the draft, the Jets held the 50th-overall selection and picked Russian playmaker Nikita Chibrikov. Chibrikov was named one of the top Russian forwards heading into this draft and was even ranked to go in the first round by many scouts.
This was Kevin Cheveldayoff’s first Russian selection since he drafted goaltender Mikhail Berdin in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Berdin now plays for the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League (AHL). Pavel Kraskovsky was the last Russian skater selected by the Jets — he was taken in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He currently plays for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Who is Nikita Chibrikov?
Chibrikov is an elite and technical playmaker who was part of the legendary Dynamo Moskva program up until last season. A trade was made prior to the start of the 2020-21 season that dealt Chibrikov’s rights to SKA St. Petersburg. While with the SKA St. Petersburg club, he competed in the Junior Hockey League (MHL), Supreme Hockey League (VHL), and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). His most dominant performance was in the MHL where he registered nine points in 11 games, he was then promoted to the VHL where he put up eight points in 20 games.
As a result, the Jets have added another crafty player who possesses elite shooting, passing skills, smooth hands, and is not afraid to engage in physical play. At the Under-18 World Junior Championships, he dominated the tournament with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in seven games as Team Russia’s captain. His nine assists recorded were a tournament high. He was also named one of Russia’s top-3 players during the tournament.
Due to his strong vision, offensive awareness and the ability to process the game faster than the average player, he is able to create plays that are more effective. His skating and agility are excellent. He uses his top speed to get around defenders and make quick passes. He often battles hard in the corners and uses his lower-body strength to fend off the opposing players.
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However, scouts have consistently stated that Chibrikov’s defensive play style hurts his game. Often he rushes back and disrupts a play, but at other times he is described as invisible in the defensive zone. As a result, he can work on that negative habit during his development. Next season, he will play for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL and hopes to make a big impact.
Another Talented Forward Added to the Pipeline
In summary, Chibrikov has the full potential to become a top-6 forward within the Jets system. He’s joining an organization that has been able to develop some talented prospects, despite not being selected in the first round. He joins the likes of fellow 2021 draft pick, Chaz Lucius as one of just a few new additions to the Jets already growing pipeline that includes young forwards such as, Cole Perfetti, Kristian Vesalainen, and David Gustafsson to name a few. While it will still be a couple of seasons until we likely see Chibrikov in North America with the Jets, Cheveldayoff may have found a diamond in the rough.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been apart of my life. Now, I am looking to get into the sports media world and make it a career. I will be covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Follow along on Twitter @itscrdavies for more hockey content!