Prospect Profile: #17 Nikita Tryamkin


When we go back and analyze previous NHL drafts, certain patterns and truisms emerge. For instance, the guys who become NHLers are the guys who score a lot of points, everyone is terrible at scouting goalies, guys who are in their draft+1 and draft+2 seasons don’t have a lot of upside, defensive ability tends to be overvalued, and so on and so forth. 

With this stuff in mind, there are three cardinal sins that a given NHL team should not do at the draft table:

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  1. Don’t draft a goalie in the first 3 rounds.
  2. Don’t draft an over age player in the first 3 rounds.
  3. Don’t draft a low-scoring defensive defenseman in the first 3 rounds.

A guy who fills just one of these criteria is a long shot to play in the league – CSS’ top-3 rated goalies going into the draft have an ~80% bust rate between 2001 and 2010, and D drafted in rounds 1-3 that can’t score at least 0.6 pts/GP at some point in their CHL careers miss the NHL nearly 90% of the time – so when a guy fulfills two of those criteria, you can, in most cases, just write that draft pick off as a wasted asset.

Fortunately for the Canucks, Nikita Tryamkin isn’t your typical prospect.

Tryamkin stands a towering 6’7″ and reportedly weighs
almost 230 pounds, according to his
EliteProspects bio
. He’s two years older than most guys drafted
in 2014, and scored just 7 points last season. We’ve looked into this stuff in the past and found that CHL defensemen drafted between the 51st and 100th picks of the NHL draft who don’t score at least 0.6 pts/GP in their draft years have made the NHL less than 4% of the time

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As I said earlier, you can
normally write off guys with Tryamkin’s kind of profile unless you have a reason to
believe that the player is significantly different – a likely exception to the
known rule. But if Tryamkin wasn’t a likely exception, he wouldn’t be on this list
at all.

First and foremost, Tryamkin was drafted not out of the CHL or some Russian Junior league, but Avtomobilist Yekaterinberg of the KHL, where, according to Arctic Ice Hockey, he was 4th on his team in average time on ice at 16:30 per game. Seven KHL points at
19 means a hell of a lot more than seven amateur league points at 19,
especially since the KHL is arguably as close to an NHL-level of competition as
you can get in Europe. 

Not only that, but Tryamkin was one of only 20 under-20 D to
play a game in the KHL last season, and one of only 63 total players. Of that
entire group of players, Tryamkin was 4th in games played, T-3rd in assists,
and T-6th in total points. Among players who played 20 or more games,
Tryamkin’s 0.16 pts/GP ranked 10th among all skaters and 2nd among defensemen.
To put this into perspective, Tryamkin was more prolific than Columbus Blue
Jackets 1st round pick Marko Dano, a talented forward drafted out of HC
Slovan Bratislava in 2013.

This is all wonderful news about Tryamkin and how he’s performed
relative to his peer group, but one season of small-sample data
still doesn’t tell us much. Seven points is enough that we can wonder
about whether a player just caught a couple of bounces or if he really is one
of Russia’s top U20 offensive D. But, once again, Tryamkin’s abilities seem to
check out upon closer inspection. He was one of only two semi-regular D in the
KHL in 2012-2013 too, and was 4th among defensemen in the MHL in pts/GP that
season as well. Furthermore, Tryamkin received some powerplay time with the
Russian U20 squad at these past World Juniors, which you can see here (he’s the
gigantic guy wearing #8):

I went to see Tryamkin in person at Canucks
development camp last month, and watching him in-person largely corroborates
with what the video shows. He’s a strong skater, and doesn’t just have good
hands for his size, but seems to have good hands in relation to Vancouver’s
other prospects. Tryamkin was certainly one of the smoothest puck handlers
among defenders – Evan McEneny, who we profiled yesterday, was also impressive –
and he appeared to compare nicely to guys like Brendan Gaunce too. When doing
his pre-draft prospect write-ups, ESPN’s Corey Pronman had this to say about the towering Russian:

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Tryamkin had a breakout season as a 19-year old, following a somewhat typical delayed development path. Tryamkin’s size is his clear best asset – he’s 6-7, 228 pounds, and skates and handles the puck well for a big man. Tryamkin doesn’t have fantastic puck skills, but he did fine on Russia’s second PP unit at the World Junior Championship, and has solid projection offensively.

Hockey’s Future wrote this about Tryamkin last season as well:

A huge defender with a cannon of a shot, Tryamkin is an intriguing prospect who has been oddly overlooked during two NHL Drafts. His size and puck skills are certainly interesting even for North American teams, who may have gleaned some good indications on his game during the recent WJC, where he was an important player on the Russian blue line. Tryamkin should work on his skating and positional play, but has some good intangibles.

Tryamkin is already a top-4 defenseman in pro hockey at 19, and, being guardedly optimistic, getting a guy like that in round 3 may be a steal for the Canucks. However, the biggest risk for Vancouver may not be Tryamkin lacking hockey ability, but Tryamkin having enough talent that his KHL club ponies up for his services longer term. He still has two seasons left on his KHL deal, and says he aims to come and play in the NHL in 2016-2017, but as we know a lot can change over the course of that amount of time. If Tryamkin proves himself to be a $2.5-$4M/yr D in Russia during that time, will he really be content playing on an ELC? That’s a question that only he and his agent would be able to answer.

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Nikita Tryamkin is definitely one of the most intriguing prospects that Vancouver has in their system at the moment. He’s followed an odd development path and seemingly come out of nowhere to become a legitimate NHL prospect. He possesses a great set of tools, with not only size and nastiness, but mobility and skill as well. He very likely isn’t a future top pairing guy, and probably won’t be a second-pair guy on a good team either, but he’s already playing professional hockey in a really good league. That alone is a good reason to believe that Nikita Tryamkin has legitimate NHL upside.


  • “Don’t draft a goalie in the first 3 rounds.”

    The top 2 goalies selected in each draft from 2005-2009:

    Price, Rask, Bernier, Helenius, Gistedt, Lafleur, Pickard, McCollum, Koskinen & Lehner.

    The top 2 goalies selected in each draft from 2010-2014:

    Campbell, Visenten, Hellberg, Gibson, Vasilevski, Subban, Fucale, Jarry, McDonald & Demko.

    But, hey, teams would be much better off listening to Sham Sharron and using 3rd round picks on the 60th – 90th best draft eligible scoring forwards in the CHL since they have such a strong track record of success.

    And then one day the analytics dinosaurs will die off altogether…

      • argoleas

        They also have the potential to be nothing.

        There is no way in hell I would have drafted Campbell where Dallas did.

        However, it’s just as delusional to suggest that goalies don’t even merit a 3rd round pick considering how infrequently a 3rd round forward/defenseman becomes…anything good.

        Of course, that doesn’t stop the media from propping up the old guard as their archaic ways of thinking become obselete…

  • argoleas

    He is also a force clearing the crease area, kind of like Chara. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen of him, it will be interesting to see how he develops. Learning some English is a must for said development.

  • argoleas

    I’ll agree with #2 and #3…but I can’t with #1. As hard as it is to project goalies, can a team justify grabbing low ranked goalies in the later rounds and hoping they become a steal? I realize some pretty good goalies came from later rounds (Lundqvist, Rinne) but just as many came from the 1st 2 rounds (Rask, Schneider, Price).

    I like what Vancouver, Montreal and Columbus have done in recent years…taking goalies ranked as potential 1st rounders early in the 2nd. I consider Demko, Dansk and Fucale as very good goalie prospects…time will tell if some 7th rounder outperforms them…but I would still draft them anyday.

  • Well, details are sketchy when it comes to KHL salaries; it’s possible that his after-tax earnings are the same as in the KHL.

    But in 2013 someone actually released a list of the top 100 salaries, and no one outside of the top 10 was in the $4M range. IIRC, most of the guys in that range were former NHLers and almost none were defensemen.

  • I really liked this pick in the third round! He is a big guy with lots of upside that us already playing pro hockey. It would be nice if he could be playing in Utica, but the KHL is fine for the next couple of years. The Canucks have enough Dmen and prospects for the next two years, so he can come in when some of the guys get long in the tooth.

    I think the fear of the KHL is not warranted, since not many players in their prime choose the KHL over the NHL. The NHL is the only way to become a Chara or Ovie… International super stars. If he gets to the point his team is ready to Poney up 2.5-4 mil a year, I’m sure he will want to test himself against the best in the world and have a chance to be a true Star. If he doesn’t pan out he can go back and sign another contract. If he decides to stay then he wasn’t the type of competitor the team needs.

    • Yes that’s true of superstar players. It is not true of middle-of-the-road NHLers. Shirokov and Koltsov are two of our draft picks who were more highly regarded than Tryamkin, have carved out really decent KHL careers, but were never able to be more than good AHLers here. None of that says that Tryamkin won’t be a good player or that he might not even crack the lineup here, but there’s a reason that the KHL doesn’t lose middle-tier players to the NHL as much these days.

  • 100% agree. I would never do any of these things:

    Don’t draft a goalie in the first 3 rounds.

    Don’t draft an over age player in the first 3 rounds.

    Don’t draft a low-scoring defensive defenseman in the first 3 rounds.

  • argoleas

    2.5 to 4M per in the KHL is a whole f-ton of money. Wouldn’t 4M put him in the top 10 earning players in the entire league? Even 2.5 would make him one of the highest paid defensemen. I kind of doubt he gets that kind of a payday.

  • I love when people try to compare him to chara when they have only seen a few clips online. Face it he has a very slim chance of becoming an Erskine let alone a chara. I do enjoy the prospect list but temper those expectations.

  • I think this guy is a diamond in the rough and would be great to come over in a couple of years. At that point hopefully we will be cup competitive. His size does remind me of Chara and the way he moves his body is similar. In two years what will our d look, like. Hamhuis will be mid 30’s, I think Bieksa may be gone. Tanev is a steady number 4 and Edler will either be what we all hope at 30 or gone. Sbisa, who knows. Corrado probably a good number 6 and Andersson on the squad. Stanton will be the number 7, Imagine a defense of Hamhuis/Tanev, Edler/Corrado, Sbisa/Tryamkin (Big T) with Anderson (another big boy) and Stanton.