Most Mondays this off-season — Thursday today — we’ll do a Sharks Prospects Update.
Stop and start. In the time of COVID-19, that’s the reality of hockey leagues around the world.
Virtually no active league has been spared. The Finnish Liiga, the latest significant pause, is taking a break until December 19th. This will affect San Jose Sharks player Antti Suomela and prospects Timur Ibragimov, Santeri Hattaka, and Evan Weinger. Earlier this week, the QMJHL announced it would suspend all activities until January 3rd.
Today, we’re going to focus on a player who’s been able to play — knock on wood — an uninterrupted string of games since late October. In that time, Ivan Chekhovich, after a difficult debut season with the San Jose Barracuda, has re-discovered himself, capped off by his selection as a KHL November Player of the Month.
I spoke with a couple sources tracking Chekhovich about where the 21-year-old has improved most. Also, should the NHL season get going, should the San Jose Sharks bring Chekhovich back early?
|Jonathan Dahlen||Allsvenskan||Timrå IK||11||11||14||25||18:46|
|Joel Kellman||Allsvenskan||Kristianstads IK||14||3||2||5||20:02|
|Marcus Sorensen||Allsvenskan||HC Vita Hästen||14||11||13||24||23:06|
|Josef Korenar||Czech||HC Ocelari Trinec||7||5||1||0.9|
|Adam Raska||Czech||HC Ocelari Trinec||2||0||0||0||9:11|
|Adam Raska||Czech 2||HC Frydek-Mistek||10||0||1||1|
|Joachim Blichfeld||Denmark||Frederikshavn White Hawks||9||3||4||7||20:34|
|Alexander True||Denmark||Rungsted Seier Capital||1||0||0||0|
|Ivan Chekhovich||KHL||Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod||15||5||8||13||17:52|
|Emil Galimov||KHL||SKA St. Petersburg||10||4||3||7||17:14|
|Alexei Melnichuk||KHL||Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod||12||4||6||0.914|
|Yegor Spiridonov||KHL||SKA St. Petersburg||2||0||0||0||7:47|
|Tony Sund||KHL||Dinamo Riga||20||0||8||8||19:42|
|Artemi Kniazev||MHL||Irbis Kazan||2||1||0||1||18:42|
|Yegor Spiridonov||MHL||SKA-1946 St. Petersburg||7||2||4||6||18:15|
|Jasper Weatherby||NCAA||North Dakota||1||0||0||0|
|Zachary Emond||QMJHL||Rouyn-Noranda Huskies||10||3||4||0.886|
|Fredrik Handemark||SHL||Malmö Redhawks||19||4||8||12||18:21|
|Linus Oberg||SHL||Örebro HK||18||7||0||7||13:44|
|Danil Gushchin||USHL||Muskegon Lumberjacks||4||5||4||9|
|Artemi Kniazev||VHL||Bars Kazan||5||1||3||4||15:14|
|Yegor Spiridonov||VHL||SKA-Neva St. Petersburg||3||2||1||3||10:28|
In just 15 KHL games, Chekhovich has eclipsed his AHL totals — four goals and eight assists in 42 games — from last year.
It’s not just numbers.
“His shifts have been solid,” an NHL amateur scout shared. “Playing faster, offensive confidence back.”
“I saw a lot of his shifts last season,” a KHL source said, “and it’s clear for me — he’s growing as a professional.”
Last season in San Jose, the Russian winger was the Barracuda’s least-used forward, averaging 11:47 a game. He did receive some power play time, a little more than a minute per game.
According to InStat Hockey, Chekhovich actually averaged more time on ice (12:22) under Roy Sommer than under Jimmy Bonneau and Mike Chiasson (11:28).
A KHL source offered: “I think his results were connected with the process and changes on the Barracuda last season. He had to adapt to the pro level while playing very different roles on different lines.
“It’s a win-win-win situation for San Jose-Ivan-Torpedo.”
On Nizhny Novgorod, Chekhovich appears to have found more consistency, playing six more minutes a night and a lot on the power play.
So the big question: Chekhovich is scheduled to spend the entire year in the KHL, but should the San Jose Sharks bring him back early to compete for an NHL job?
On one hand, the Sharks’ current forward group probably needs as much help as it can get. There’s at least one top-six spot and possibly an entire third line to pencil in.
On the other hand, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Chekhovich has found his game, but it’s not an NHL-caliber game yet.
Producing in the KHL — the league’s top-five scorers right now are, in order, Teemu Hartikainen, Vadim Shipachyov, Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, and Justin Danforth — doesn’t equate to producing in the NHL.
“Improved passing and defence are the developmental keys for Chekhovich, as he’s never going to be a big-time scorer in the NHL,” Mitch Brown of Elite Prospects wrote recently in his review of the San Jose Sharks system. “Currently, Chekhovich’s on loan in the KHL, where he’s returned to his scoring ways and looks the part of a potential bottom-six forward.”
All this is to say that Chekhovich is back on track as a legitimate NHL prospect — but that’s it for now.
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