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Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Nikita Tryamkin Struggling In KHL, Stripped Of Captaincy

At the beginning of the 2018/19 KHL season, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg announced that the 24-year-old Nikita Tryamkin would be taking over as team captain. It was a presumably happy day for the defenseman-in-exile, but the news was considerably less well-received by the fanbase of the Vancouver Canucks. Many fans assumed that Avtomobilist making such a clear demonstration of their dedication to Tryamkin might inspire some reciprocal loyalty on his part, and that could lead to Tryamkin extending his KHL contract beyond its 2020 expiry date. It was far from definitive evidence but, on the whole, his earning of the captaincy made it seem less likely that he would ever return to Vancouver—but since then, the situation between Tryamkin and Yekaterinburg has changed in a rather dramatic fashion.

21 games into the KHL season, Avtomobilist is off to an amazing start, with a record of 20-1-0. Unfortunately, Nikita Tryamkin has not been a large part of that success. Last year, Tryamkin put up 25 points in 51 games and was the team’s clear number one defenseman, but his production has decreased dramatically to just three points in 17 games. Tryamkin’s icetime has also dropped significantly from last season, and he’s even found himself a healthy scratch on four occasions. Unfortunately, the on-ice portion of the game isn’t the only one in which Tryamkin has disappointed, either.

In what has to be considered a controversial move, Tryamkin was recently stripped of the Yekaterinburg captaincy by head coach Andrei Martmyanov—just over a month after Tryamkin was given it. Tryamkin was replaced as captain by pro hockey veteran Nigel Dawes, the team’s leading scorer. Overall, Dawes seems like a logical choice as leader and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he had been chosen as captain from the get-go, but that’s not what happened. Clearly, something in the relationship between Tryamkin and his coaching staff has changed—to the point that, in September, they considered him the best candidate to wear the “C”—and a better candidate than Dawes—yet, in October, he’s suddenly fighting for a roster spot.

Information on the comings-and-goings of KHL franchises can be hard to come by, but Martmyanov did give a Russian-language interview with Sport-Express in which he briefly touched on the subject. In what could be gleaned from a rough translation of the article, Martmyanov shared his thoughts on why Tryamkin “was deprived of the captain’s patch.”

“I think this is generally an internal affair of the team. Still, Dawes is the leader. He is a more experienced person. Nikita – we had a conversation with him – I need to think more about the game. For the match with Spartak… almost no complaints. [Tryamkin] will ripen – will be the captain.”

Digging further into Martmyanov’s comments, one gets the picture that the coach is not happy with the defensive mistakes that seem to still be plaguing Tryamkin—and perhaps his compete level—as he notes:

“Pleased with the result, but not the content of the match. We had an expressionless match. We will understand why. Such things need to be removed. The guys warned that to go to the leading positions is very difficult…It is necessary to make an amendment in their actions. Answer for them.”

It seems that, for the time being, Nikita Tryamkin is answering for his actions with a dramatically-lessened role on the team. Given that the majority of Tryamkin’s issues in Vancouver seemed to stem from his undefined role on the team, one can’t help but notice the similarities. If Tryamkin is experiencing the same problems in Yekaterinburg that he was in Vancouver, it might make it more likely that he gives the NHL another shot.

Or, he could come storming back, reacquire the captaincy, lead Avtomobilist to a championship, and never even think about leaving Russia again. Really, who’s to say?



  • Killer Marmot

    Based on the few scraps of information we have, the Canucks and Tryamkin had different views of who he was. Tryamkin saw himself as a budding star who deserved to be treated as such. The Canucks saw him as a promising prospect who had much to learn, and who needed to be brought along incrementally like most rookies.

    From what we’ve learned since then, the Canucks were likely correct.

    • Locust

      Exactly Marmot.
      This ‘model’ of Russian players has been seen before. He will never be an NHLer which is unfortunate. He has everything except what’s in his head and what’s in his heart. No fancy stats needed. Once he gets embarrassed enough and starts to play well, the Canucks should trade his rights for a late round pick.

    • canuckfan

      If he does return he wouldn’t have the leverage that he had last time. This time he would have to start in Utica and prove himself. No more going back to KHL threats if he is demoted. Canucks defense is not the greatest but is better than when he had played here. He is likely out of shape and if Goldie gets him over here we don’t need him bringing Goldy down. Time to move on from the big guy not worth trying to catch a falling knife Tryamkin is falling hard and will likely never recover.

      • Fortitude00

        Canucks D is still the same. Nobody has seized spots on the left side except Edler. Edler is hurt possibly for the year and might never play here again. Hughes appears to be someone who will take a spot but there is still another two spots on the left side that can be improved. We hope Juolevi is one.

  • Kid Canuck

    Wow, bit of an underwhelming joker on and off the ice this guy is. Trade his rights now and get as many picks as possible for the next draft in Vancouver imo. Time to move on from Tryamkin big time if he can’t even get it together in the K.

  • Fred-65

    Entitlement happens to a lot of sports players. They have such an easy time in their formative years they loose contact with reality, for most that’s the end of the line and never progress after that much. IMO opinion NT needs some one like Larionov as his agent, some one he respects and will listen to. I believe Goldobin for instance was very fortunate to have Larionov as his agent, other wise Goldobin may have taken the same path as NT. Larionov worked tirelessly and turned the kids head, remember NT sated he had no idea why Goldobin wasn’t playing because he was a very skilled player …. well here’s the thing Nikita he was incomplete and his view obviously did not coincide with a future in the NHL …… if you’re smart Nikita you look and learn or you become a third pairing D in the KNL ….your choice. I hope he return because frankly he holds the blue line better than any other D we have …amongst other thing

  • Puck Viking

    If it sounds like they can get him signed after the KHL season ends, it would then allow them to deal Gudbranson at this years deadline and just get back whatever they can for him.

  • Canuck4Life20

    If he doesn’t have the work ethic to cut it in the KHL he surely won’t get it done in the NHL. I loved this guys potential, but never liked his entitled attitude. This is more evidence that he doesn’t have the heart to compete in the best league in the world.

    • Hack-smack-whack

      I never saw a lack of work ethic when he was here; he was asked to get in better shape in training camp, and he did.
      The only “lack of” that I saw, was a lack of willingness to be a mean player, and who can blame him for that. You could see it upset him when he broke Richardson’s leg.
      This didn’t seem to negatively affect his physical game though. I thought that he was very effective at using his reach to disrupt the player coming in over the blue line, and when they looked down to try to regain puck control, he would bump them off the puck.
      Management should have tried to build up what he is, rather than recreate.

  • DogBreath

    The Canucks fanbase really wants this guy to work out and come back and be part of the future. Unfortunately, maturity is a key driver for success. Showing up to camp out of shape, rejecting a conditioning stint and then his comments on Vancouver’s coaching and the city itself indicate maturity or character issues. Maturity can evolve. Character issues are harder to fix. Hopefully he figures it out.

  • North Van Halen

    I posted this before but you can’t win with guys that that think they’re more important than the team. This guy had entitlement issues here, he’s now got them there.
    I don’t care how tantalizing Groot’s package is, if he thinks he deserves ice-time just because he shows up and not because he’s worked harder and played better, buh-bye. This would be my cue to make him someone else’s problem. I wouldn’t want that attitude anywhere near all the kids we got coming up right now

    • El Kabong

      It could also be the fact he looks at our defence core and thought I’m way better than at least four of those plugs yet the coach still sits me for long stretches.

    • Macksonious

      My sense is that Tryamkin’s entitlement issue stems from immaturity. How he responds to this latest incident could be pivotal to his pro hockey career. Not writing him off yet, but he better figure it out soon. Hope he learns something from this.

  • A big aspect of leadership is maturity and experience. Dawes had been a captain for the last 2 years and is an experienced and high performing international hockey player. I guess this is the scenario Benning and Green wanted to avoid by not naming Horvat captain for this year.

  • Nuck16

    This is definitely a good news/bad news situation for the Canucks. The bad is obvious, but the ‘good’ is that NT will now hold one of his famous grudges against his KHL team, and will want to teach them a lesson by moving back to the NHL…

  • speering major

    Seems like he has some serious mental issues. It’s hard to cure those while he’s being courted by a team desperate for D. The guy crapped all over the city as if he got an apartment on E Hastings and never left the area. That just seems like he’s a bit slow. Then he shows up to camp about a Petterson overweight. Then instead of playing his way up the line-up as a rookie he takes his ball and goes home. I love his potential but it’s going to be really hard to straighten him out, especially with the language barrier. It just seems like he has his head in the clouds about everything

  • 40years

    The last thing the Canucks need is a player with a bad attitude. Tryamkin’s rant about Russian players being discriminated against in the NHL was enough for me. If someone isn’t doing well and blames everything but himself then he’s never going to make it in the NHL.

  • rootofroots

    It felt like at the end of his last season he was really coming into form and after he was announced as the captain it seemed he had matured, I mean unless there’s a completely different standard of captains in the Khl. So who is this coming from we can’t really figure that out without a bi-lingual Russian sports reporter clarifying the issues. Fun to speculate on though

  • Kanuckhotep

    Nikita was just starting to play quite well at the end of his most recent time here in Vancouver. On the surface he has sufficient tools to be an NHL D. It’s using those tools effectively which stems from the athlete’s attitude for and approach to his profession which may be called into question for Tryamkin so it would appear. If he’s having issues playing in Russia in his own backyard (and what a big backyard it is) then ask yourself if it’d be any different him coming back here. I’d love for him to work out here but it seems doubtful at this point if ever.

  • Robby-D

    Should these circumstances be the reason Tryamkin chooses to return to the NHL I fear it would not bode well for his success and fit in the Canucks organization.

    Might be similar problems to what he faced here in Vancouver. The team’s coaches and management see a large defenseman and want “tough and mean.” He can play strong and tough and smart and skilled and still be very effective as a d-man in the NHL, but that takes “new thinking.” The brass need to remember that tigers don’t change their stripes and give him the best chance to succeed with the tools he has.

  • Dirty30

    Compare Groot and Guddy — Groot cost a late draft pick … Guddy a whole lot more.

    Groot was reasonably effective despite his shortcomings— Guddy seems to be nothing but shortcomings.

    Detroit has plenty of draft picks and success in developing Russian players — not sure what Guddy would get in a trade other than a sense of relief that he’s finally gone.

    If Groot is intent on coming back, he should start in Utica. No negotiation or exit strategy— follow the system and earn your way up.

  • argoleas

    Just not sure how he fit’s in Benning’s and Green’s plans. No way in hell will Green just gift him a spot. Canucks focus for now will be Hughes and Juolevi on LD, likely with Edler being the elder statesman there. And their RD is set for a while, and only a Karlsson would change things there.

  • HKCanucklehead

    “Tryamkin’s captaincy has been stripped.” He must be on a rift with the Russian team!! What if the title was “Tryamkin passes captaincy to Dawes to try to improve on game.” If the team is so keen on holding onto their star defenseman, wouldn’t they sit and discuss with the player and try to convince him that captaincy might be negatively affecting his play? He himself might actually cordially agree. What’s with all of this he is super entitled comments…

    • DogBreath

      Probably because at the same time, he switched his Instagram to his Canuck uniform. Timing doesn’t line up with some who cordially agrees (or he has a bizarre sense of humour and timing).

  • Fortitude00

    Reading these comments people writing him off? The guy was the team captain to most of the Avtomobilist 20 – 1 – 0 record. Coach wasn’t happy with his play and wanted to motivate him. All he did was name someone else the captain who was older and more experienced. They are only at the quarter mark Try has lots of time to turn this season around. You all need to relax.

    • DogBreath

      Who’s captain of 20-1-0 team and gets stripped of his captaincy. It seems an incredibly drastic move just to get their captain going. We commentors may be wrong (and I’m sure most of us hope we are), but that move by his coach, plus his lack of professionalism while in Vancouver seem to point in a disappointing direction. He’s 24 now, so its beginning to look like ‘it is what it is’,

      • Hack-smack-whack

        Strange to hear some fans take on him… I’ve read several of his translated interviews and have always come away thinking he sounds like a good character guy. I think there’s a tendency to misunderstand Russian players here. They are proud as a culture, and what one says means something. If he was tempted over here by the desperate words of Benning (and who knows what Benning told him), and signed a contract confirming NHL or nothing deal, and then was asked to do something different after uprooting to come over here, I can fully appreciate that in his value set, that is a dishonourable act by management.

        As for the instagram photo, pretty sure it always has been in Canucks uni. I think you’re reading too much into that.

        I think everyone is jumping to quick conclusions on the guy without enough facts. We simply don’t know what’s going on with his poor start. We have the luxury these days of 24/7 instant gratification culture, and I think that lends itself to a mindset of immediate opinion and conclusion, whether warranted or not. Just look at Toronto blue jay fans that wrote off their young star closer Roberto Osuna without facts.

        I think we should just cool it on making judgements on the guy, and see where things go. Management has some time before they need to make a decision to trade his rights, or sign him, and he has time to get his season turned around. No need for all the instant judgment on a guy who can’t even speak English to defend himself.

  • Hockey Bunker

    Sometimes a captaincy changes a player for the worse. Sometimes playing on a team that wins easily and rarely loses leads to bad habits. And sometimes both happen at the same time.

  • Hockey Bunker

    Sometimes a captaincy changes a player for the worse. Sometimes playing on a team that wins easily and rarely loses leads to bad habits. And sometimes both happen at the same time. Thanks for the update