The injury bug has infecting the Vancouver Canucks line-up. Now more than ever, Vancouver is missing their former big man, Nikita Tryamkin, who’s having a career year playing for his home town of Yekaterinburg in the KHL
Since the Vancouver Canucks and Swedish forward Anton Rodin agreed to terminate his contract, he has been on fire with his new team, Davos HC of the Swiss National League. In five games, Rodin is already point per game.
Rodin is not the only former Canucks excelling overseas. His former teammate, the now infamous Nikita Tryamkin, also left the Canucks to play in a different professional league. It is eye-gouging for fans, as many were ready to invest not only in is jersey, but in tickets to see the unorthodox big-man play.
As reported by Jason Brough in the Athletic, Tryamkin was named the KHL’s top defencemen for the second consecutive month. The striking elevation in his development is such a typical outcome for the organization. Tryamkin is not only putting up career numbers, he is prevailing in all areas.
Could he be a legitimate top-four defenseman in the National Hockey League (NHL) if he returns?
In 39 games with Yekaterinburg Automobilist, Tryamkin is fourth in team scoring (four points behind the leader) with seven goals and a career-high 21 points. Also, Tryamkin has career-high penalty minutes with 87, and is leading his team in +/- sitting plus17. Tryamkin is shooting more this year (6.4%SOG), averaging more time-on-ice, and is a key contributor on special teams.
Though Automobilist had significant roster changes in the off-season, they kept most of their core. Requiring their hometown top-defensemen in Tryamkin is helping Automobilist not only bouce back from an awful seaon, but become a top team in the KHL. They currently stand sixth in the league – third in the East – with 23 wins and 11 losses. Tryamkin is a critical factor in their projected playoff appearance this year.
A Fit With Travis Green?
With a nothing to lose swagger, Tryamkin had his most noticeable performance of 2016-17 in his last game with the Canucks. Sure, he had big hits and notable shot blocks throughout his time in Vancouver. But, in that last game of the season he put his powerful shot, skating ability, and offensive mind on display.
Tryamkin joined the rush and brought the puck into the offensive zone himself rather than making that first pass or clearing it in his final game. He went rogue at times, taking-on tasks former Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desarjardins would not have asked of him.
Tryamkin looked comfortable with a balanced game. If he was given more freedom to join the rush and play a strong defensive game, would he excel in a Travis Green system?
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When asked about playing more offensively in the KHL by Russian reporter Igor Eronko, Tryamkin attributed it to the system.
The increase in ice-time from 15 minutes to over 20 is no doubt a factor.
Playing a less-defensive style of hockey and focussing on the attack, a healthy Canucks team under Green are exciting and competitive. Green is a realist. He is employing a system to accommodate Vancouver’s offensive defenceman, and the young talent up-front. However, players are still held accountable for not buying-in – i.e. a Jake Virtanen or Alexander Burmistrov.
A Return to Vancouver?
The Canuck Way‘s own Harman Dayal highlighted that,
“Nikita hold’s all the cards” in regards to a return to the Vancouver Canucks according to Benning.
“I loved that [energy] in Vancouver. After a hit, or a shoot, the whole crowd goes ‘wow’. And many other sounds. When I had a big hit and listened to the crowd, I could hear the adrenaline in my blood. There was a game where I had five or six hits, and after that fans started calling me ‘train’ or ‘crusher’,
Tryamkin told Igor.
When asked about his return, Tryamkin said he it made sense since the Vancouver Canucks hold his rights. He also spoke well of coach Green,
Therefore, if Tryamkin does return to Vancouver in the near future, there will be no animosity with his coaching staff.
In order to use Tryamkin’s skills appropriatley, Green will have to understand that Tryamkin is not Chris Pronger – the aggressive player Desarjdins wanted him to model. He is proving to be more of a Zdeno Chara, the player he told Jim Benning and company he idolized before being drafted in 2014.
With Lagardere Sports’ now distributing the media rights of the KHL, highlights are unavailable on YouTube for North-Americans. This makes it difficult to follow Tryamkin’s play without paying for KHL games. However, Vancouver Canucks fans will have a chance to see the Russian prospect skate in the 2018 Winter Olympics where he should assume a top-pairing role.