Yegor Chinakhov scored his first NHL goal on Monday night, and it was a doozie.
The 20-year old, who just two years ago was panned as an off-the-board pick as the 21st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, has quickly turned that narrative on its head. Since then, Chinakhov helped his KHL team, Avangard Omsk, win a Gagarin Cup as league champions en route to him being named KHL rookie of the year. Then, he left the comfort of his native Russia for the chance to play in the NHL with the Blue Jackets. After a one-game showcase in the AHL, where he scored, he was brought back up to Columbus. After an injury to Patrik Laine opened up a spot on the top line alongside fellow rookie Cole Sillinger and Jakub Voracek, Chinakhov was tabbed as the solution.
The move has worked out perfectly for Chinakhov; in the four games since they've been together, he has 1-3-4. In his first five NHL games, he was held pointless.
We knew that Chinakhov's calling card was his shot. His former coach, Bob Hartley, compared it to that of Hockey Hall Of Famer Joe Sakic, who possessed one of the deadliest wrist shots in NHL history. After he ripped apart the Traverse City showcase, and later, training camp and the preseason, it was only a matter of time before his shot would pay dividends where it counted most. And on Monday, his shot beat Detroit Red Wings netminder Thomas Greiss so cleanly that he hadn't even reacted to his shot before the puck was behind him.
But instead of fixating on his shot, I wanted to discuss his hockey IQ, specifically the anticipation he displayed on his game-tying goal.
First off, Chinakhov understood the situation. Trailing by a goal with just 4:30 left in the game, he knew that time was running out, and that he should be on the lookout for any potential opening. As the puck exited the zone off a Cole Sillinger pass, Chinakhov immediately sprinted up ice, getting past his check, Sam Gagner (#89).
A split second later, Chinakhov spotted a 'funny puck', where both of Detroit's defenders went to step up on Jakub Voracek, who was put in an awkward situation. Voracek, being the savvy veteran, noticed that Chinakhov had seen the misstep and that he had a step on Gagner. Voracek touched the puck forward into the offensive zone, where Chinakhov, who was now at top speed, could pick up the puck in full flight. From there, the rest is semantics.
Alright, let's talk about that shot. The below freeze frame shows that Greiss had literally not even reacted to the shot before it was already past him. That's absurd. Chinakhov's ability to generate his shot comes from a violent whip of his stick. And while there are plenty of NHL players capable of beating an NHL goalie clean, Chinakhov clearly has one of the more deadly shots in the world.
Goal no. 1 was something to remember, and it will be a treat to watch where this young player will take his game as he acclimates to the NHL.