On Yegor Rykov’s stint as a healthy scratch in Hartford

Touted rookie has had some struggles in Hartford

Hockey is like no other sport with prospects. Highly touted prospects are watched with great scrutiny from draft year through, hopefully, making it to the NHL. There can be years before even first round picks go from draft year to rookie season. Rebuilds are the same in this regard, with picks and prospects being shuffled around for rebuilding teams.

The Rangers are no different with their rebuild, with the 2018 and 2019 trade deadlines composed of big sell offs. In 2018, the Rangers sent Michael Grabner to the Devils for a draft pick and prospect Yegor Rykov, who was immediately regarded as one of the top defense prospects at that time. The 22 year old doesn’t score much, but his KHL career was followed closely as he was viewed as a player who could solidify the defensive aspect of the blue line for the Rangers.

When Rykov was signed to an NHL deal in the Spring of 2019, that scrutiny intensified. Unfortunately Rykov was injured in preseason and didn’t even make it to the AHL –he couldn’t be sent down until healthy– until halfway through the season. Rykov has a line of 2-9-11 in 26 games thus far. However, he’s been a healthy scratch for a while lately. I reached out to Ricky Milliner to see what the deal was.

“Rykov has been struggling,” Ricky noted. He did start off hot, but trailed off significantly of late. “It seems he’s still adjusting to North American ice and honestly can’t find his game. It seems to be the coaching staff is not happy with his play. He did have a minor injury lately as well.”

Despite the play lately, there is little cause for concern. The Hartford Wolf Pack are in a playoff spot, after all, and are more focused on winning than they are on player development. They need to dress the best possible roster as they gear up for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

There may be concerns about development timelines, since Rykov will be sitting for an extended period of time. However Milliner did put that concern to bed. “Let him adjust here this season then really let him start developing more next season,” since he’s not the only rookie defenseman struggling, most notably Libor Hajek.

The adjustment for Rykov appears to be more of a roadblock than for other prospects making the jump from the KHL to the NHL. There is no cause for concern. It is certainly worth monitoring. Rykov is still expected to be a part of the future for the Rangers blue line next season.

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  • Not every European or Russian player’s game translates well to the NHL game. Some take time to adjust, some never adjust.

    Let’s give these kids a little more time.

    On the other hand, a player like Fox (and I am hoping K’Andre Miller) can make the move flawlessly into the NHL game. We still have lots of young options in the backline.

  • Thanks for this article. Let’s hope all goes well.

    Does Ricky Milliner have any thoughts about Darren Raddysh? Raddysh was never really viewed as a prospect, but he seems to be having a great year in Hartford and maybe has the skill to be a passable third pair defenseman in the NHL, someone who might serve as a stopgap until Miller, Lundqvist, Robertson are ready.

    Hopefully, Smith can be traded and Staal will retire, be traded, or be a year older. With Rykov behind schedule, Hajek a lost cause IMO, and the others not yet pros, third pair will be a concern and it would be nice to know if Raddysh can step in. [I’m thinking the other non-prospect, Nick Ebert, is behind Raddysh.]

    Raddysh may even be able to help this year. I supported the Skjei trade, but it does create a short term hole.

    • Yes but remember that Hajek was solid with the Rangers after the call up last year before the injury – even though he wasn’t doing all that well before at all in Hartford (before the call up)….you never know.

      • I am just giving my opinion and I would not object to others – as tanto below – who think otherwise. And, JFTR, I want those in player development to behave as though tanto is/were right.

        However, the Hajek NHL stint last season was all of five games and it is hard to believe, given his general management, that DQ did not shelter him a little.

        What I think we are looking at is someone who was a true prospect, but a marginal prospect from the start. A player who has gone on to parts of two seasons of poor to mediocre AHL play, with a good short NHL stint and a more extended bad stint.

        Don’t get me wrong. If I were the Ranger brass, I would continue to develop him and wouldn’t consider trading him for say a fourth round draft choice. But my expectations are washout.

        I think the prospects picked up in the 2018 trades – Howden, Hajek, Lindgren, Rykov – were all of the iffy nature. Now, Lindgren (the least celebrated at the time I think) appears to be a home run. Even if none of the remaining trio amount to anything, that may be a good result.

        • Ray IMO there’s a difference between a player with limited skills and a player who may be playing poorly. Hajek has a lot of good skills and qualities, but I can’t argue that his play at times has been mistake prone and poor. That said I see a lot of skill in the young man …. there’s no reason why that light bulb won’t go off at some point and he puts all those skills together at the same time. That’s what development is all about and every player moves to the beat of a different drummer. It could take Hajek another year or year and a half, but I think at the least he’ll be a decent 3rd pairing guy — and with Lindgren, Miller, Robertson, etc. that’s just fine.

          • I think you make a very good argument for why the Rangers should make every effort to develop Hajek. There is no excuse whatsoever for giving up on him (though of course it is permissible to trade prospects for the proper return). He clearly has skills.

            Another question though is where do we think the story will end in reality. And there you are optimistic and I am not. I suspect we are both biased. In general, you are very optimistic about prospects and I am probably too impatient with them.

            But from a management perspective, except for trade value, this question is largely irrelevant. You develop your kids, period. Brandon Crawley is is the final year of his ELC and will not be given a qualifying offer. He spent most of this year in Maine. Yet recently he was recalled to Hartford so the Rangers could give him one last look just in case — because that is what you are supposed to do.

            Oh – and when it comes to Hajek – I would prefer it if you are right and I am wrong. A third pair dman would be very nice to have next year.

  • Rykov has a European out for next season and will be using it unless he knocks it out of the park in camp.

  • Not too worried about Rykov, with what is in the pipeline both Right and Left (specifically Lundkvist and Robertson for starters) …. and with the possibility they move ADA to the left side, we’re still solid.

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