One of the franchise-record-setting ten players that made their NHL debuts for the Blue Jackets last season was the Russian right-winger, Yegor Chinakhov.
Chinakhov was quite a surprise to everyone, including the draft broadcasters when the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. They were so thrown off with nothing prepared for him, and one or two of the broadcasters had never even heard of him.
The pick was shocking because the 19-year-old forward was so far down on some draft boards and even off a lot of others. For instance, The Hockey Writers had three different prospect rankings lists by different analysts; one list had Chinakhov ranked #179 and two of them didn't even have him on their lists. He went undrafted during the 2019 draft, so the expectations weren't very high for him in his second attempt that next year.
Chinakhov was the very definition of a late riser, having just started playing in his first season in the KHL, widely considered the top professional hockey league, outside of the NHL. He got off to a fast start for his team, the Omsk Avangard, notching seven points in his first 12 games before the start of the NHL draft. He had played the previous season in the lower-level MHL scoring an impressive 69 points, including 27 goals, in 56 games. But it was the Russian teenager's hot start in the KHL that really showcased his scoring ability and wowed Blue Jackets' GM Jarmo Kekalainen enough to take a chance on him in the first round of the draft.
It was expected that Chinakhov would need to stay and develop in the KHL for a few seasons before making his NHL debut, but, once again, he surprised us by finishing out his season with the Avangard and making his way to the Blue Jackets that next season (2021-22). He would finish his lone season in the KHL with a stat line of 10-7-17 in 32 games showing off his scoring ability with more goals than assists. He would also add five more goals and two more assists in 21 playoff contests.
Per Brad Larsen, rookie forward Yegor Chinakhov does make his NHL debut tonight in Detroit. Joonas Korpisalo gets his first start of the season #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 19, 2021
Just three games into the 2021-22 season, on Oct. 19, 2021, Chinkhov would make his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings, and on Nov. 6th he would secure his first NHL points with a two-assist, multipoint performance against the Colorado Avalanche. Just five days later, facing the Red Wings again, the left-hander would score his first goal for the Blue Jackets, in another multipoint game.
Chinakhov would go on to play in 62 games in his first season for the Blue Jackets. He missed some time with an upper-body injury toward the end of the season, but he was able to come back and finish out the last four games. He ended up with 14 points and an even split of seven goals and seven assists while averaging 12 and a half minutes of ice time per game.
Although his stat line on the season won't blow anyone away, he did gain valuable experience while showing flashes of that scoring ability that made the organization take a chance on him.
Now, at 21 years old and with a year of NHL experience under his belt, Chinakhov will look to take that next step in his development and become a consistent contributor on the offensive end. He will also look to build on the ability he has shown to get physical, as the Blue Jackets are in need of tough forwards who aren't afraid to mix it up and win board battles against opposing teams.
If he is able to start putting it all together in his second season in Columbus, he can solidify himself as one of the core young pieces of this team, as they look to build toward perennial contender status.