Yegor Chinakhov watched the puck go from low in the zone to high, then pounced.
Marc Staal, the veteran defenseman who has never been known for his offensive chops, sent a pass across the zone to his defensive partner, but it never got there.
Chinakhov read the play like a picture book, intercepted the pass, then accelerated down the ice on a breakaway. Knowing he had one, maybe two players chasing him, he positioned his puck on the stick where he could quickly lean on his stick and snap his wrists, selecting the stealthy quick release over his heavier and harder drag shot.
Being a left-handed shot, Chinakhov knew that, if he could surprise opposing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, shooting five-hole would be the preferred tact. It would take less time to flex down on the stick to generate the height required to beat Bobrovsky high, anyways. And with that quick snap, Chinakhov beat Bobrovsky through the legs, equalizing the game at 1-1. The Blue Jackets never trailed again.
The Russian finished the game with a goal, two shots, a blocked shot, two hits, and a takeaway in 13:20. He has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past five games.
Chinakhov is one of the players I'm excited about watching this year. He's still only 21, and has just 80 NHL games to his name. He has sufficient NHL speed and playmaking ability, and a 'plus' shot. If he can continue on his upward trajectory, he'll be a key player for the club for years to come.
Sheesh, Yegor Chinakhov can really rip a puck. pic.twitter.com/J2xPyrxmdW— NHL (@NHL) October 23, 2022
Amazing wrist shot by Yegor Chinakhov. CBJ forward scored his second goal in this season.— Shumi Babaev Agency (@BabayevShumi) October 30, 2022
There is no chances for goalkeeper of NJ Devils. @BlueJacketsPR @BlueJacketsNHL @CBJGivesBack @gilliankemmerer pic.twitter.com/SnPfQR2MPO
A year ago, the then 20-year-old was still adjusting to the NHL game. Heck, he probably still is. But in his rookie season, he produced at a lackluster clip, posting 7-7-14 (G-A-PTS) in 62 games. This season, through 18 games, he's nearly matched his totals with 3-7-10.
One thing that has made Chinakhov more dangerous this season is that teams now know to respect his shot. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said that he's an underrated playmaker, and we've seen him deliver slick passes where he's in a dual-threat (shot or pass) situation.
Chinakhov is not yet a finished product, and that's a good thing. His continued growth should help the club become a more dangerous team. Personally, I'd like to see him play more minutes. He's averaging just 13:11 TOI this season, and in a season in which youth development should be priorities #1 and #2, his playing a limited role doesn't serve the club's best long-term interests. But there's a lot to be excited about from the young Russian, as last night's game evidenced.