Surprising Everyone, The Columbus Blue Jackets Used Their First Round Pick On Yegor Chinakhov

By Ed Francis on October 7, 2020 at 7:20 am
Yegor Chinakhov

"I do not know who Yegor Chinakhov is."

"I have no idea who Yegor Chinakhov who is."

Those were the tweets Tuesday evening from The Hockey News' prospects guru Ryan Kennedy, and Sean Shapiro of The Athletic.

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus Blue Jackets surprised everyone but themselves in Tuesday's first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, selecting Chinakhov with the 21st overall pick. 

"We have our scouts for a reason and that's who we believe in, and their list is the most important thing."– Jarmo Kekalainen

As they should, the Blue Jackets are banking on themselves. 

And as we've seen before, that's probably a good thing.

"We have our scouts for a reason and that's who we believe in," Kekelainen said. "Chinakhov has very high skill."

While almost no one expected his name to be called in round one (or even round two, for some), the Blue Jackets scouting team saw enough potential in the 19-year-old Omsk, Russia native to put him in the top 10 of their draft board. 

"He can see the ice, make plays. Has good one-on-one play and a tremendous shot. He's got a lot of different qualities that we think will transfer to the North American game and the NHL," Kekalainen said.

"That's why we drafted him where we did."

Fresh off being named September's rookie of the month in the KHL, Chinakhov has maintained a strong level of play. In just a dozen games this season with Avangard Omsk, the 6'0", 180lb winger has tallied five goals and a pair of assists. 

To Kekalainen and the Jackets scouting team, this was confirmation that Chinakov, who was on the Blue Jackets radar in last year's draft, was continuing to develop his game.

"When you draft 18-year-olds, a lot of the time the offseason makes a big difference," Kekalainen said. "We kept getting better and better viewing on him to be able to get more and more convinced about his ability and projection."

Prior to joining Avangard, Chinakhov scored 27 goals and 42 assists in 56 games with Omskie Yasterby of the MHL, averaging more than a point per game.

“(Chinakhov) has a tendency to cause a great deal of confusion among opponents.”– Steve Kournianos,

An elusive and crafty skater to go along with an impressive shot, he quickly became a power-play threat for Yasterby last season. Steve Kournianos of writes that Chinakhov "has a tendency to cause a great deal of confusion among opponents when he has the puck in open ice or tight spaces," adding that he "seems to execute set plays such as give-and-go's."

Chinakhov will not be on the Blue Jackets in the next two years, but rarely is that the case for players drafted out of the top 20. All indications are that Chinakhov has an extremely high ceiling as an offensive threat in the NHL, and given Kekalainen's history of discovering gems, this has the potential to be one of his best picks yet.