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Top 25 Sharks Under 25: No. 13 Ivan Chekhovich’s AHL performance is cause for excitement

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Ivan Chekhovich has the offensive tools to become a late-round gem, but can he find the consistency to put it all together?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 24: Ivan Chekhovich, 212th overall pick of the San Jose Sharks, poses for a portrait during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Seventh-round draft selections typically have a 20 percent chance of making it to the NHL; however, Ivan Chekhovich is showing early signs of becoming a late-round steal for the San Jose Sharks.

Over the past two seasons, the 19-year-old has spent most of his time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Baie-Comeau Drakkar, and his transition to junior hockey in Canada is impressive. In his first year, the Russian forward scored 26 goals and 59 points, but using Evan Oppenheimer’s betweenness data, which measures a player’s effectiveness on team scoring rates, it provides a more in-depth analysis of Chekhovich’s production while with Baie-Comeau.

Chekhovich’s 5-on-5 betweenness score in the 2016-17 season was 0.2182 (for reference, Oppenheimer has stated that “not many players are over .2” in even strength betweenness), meaning he was driving play. Furthermore, 21 of his 26 goals came at 5-on-5 showing that he doesn’t rely on the power play for most of his production. As a result, this led to Chekhovich being ranked 71st by NHL Central Scouting and should’ve seen him gone in the third or fourth round, instead of dropping to the seventh-round selection.

Europeans face many hurdles when coming to North America, but Chekhovich made a seamless transition in his first season before being drafted (later than he probably would have hoped) by San Jose. Nonetheless, his sophomore season in Baie-Comeau saw Chekhovich stagnant, rather than seeing him take off.

In 65 games during the 2017-18 season, Chekhovich saw an increase in goals (29) and a single point increase (60) from the prior season. Although the improvement is a welcome sight, it wasn’t a major spike in production that you’d like to see from a player heading into their second season of junior hockey. The 5-on-5 betweenness data showed regression, as Chekhovich fell from 0.2182 to 0.011; also his 5-on-5 goal production went down from 21 to 16 despite high points and goals going up, which wasn’t a good sign. In a season that should’ve seen him dominate the QMJHL, it didn’t come to fruition.

Nonetheless, after his QMJHL season was over, Chekhovich signed an amateur try-out contract with the San Jose Barracuda. Albeit a small sample size, he came into the AHL and made an immediate impact, scoring three goals and nine points in nine games. Combined with fellow 2017 draft pick Sasha Chmelevski, the pair created a one-two punch that the Barracuda desperately needed, and in the midnight hour, dragged them into the post-season. Although his junior season left some wanting more, Chekhovich production in the minors led to an entry-contract from the Sharks to reward him for his strong finish.

The most reassuring thing about Chekhovich remains that Emmanuel Perry of Corsica has given him 41.49 percent chance of making the NHL. If he can find consistency between juniors and the professional level, we may see him within the next few years.

What we like

Chekhovich became a driving force on offense for the Drakkar and showed flashes of his offensive potential in his first season, leading the team in goals and points despite it being his first year in North America. According to Steve Kournianos of the Draft Analyst, Chekhovich “is a dynamic player with an array of puck skills who plays on the Drakkar’s top line and top power-play unit. He’s very quick and accelerates to top speed faster than most of his draft peers.” These offensive skill-sets are why there’s excitement around him and he’s shown signs of putting it all together.

Areas of improvement

Like many young players, consistency is always a significant hurdle, and it’s one that Chekhovich is still trying to overcome. After making his presence known in his first year with Drakkar, more was expected following his draft year. His point total should’ve taken off as he was no longer adjusting to North American ice and was among the older members of the team. Chekhovich has all the offensive tools to become one of the top scorers in the QMJHL. This upcoming season could help determine as to the direction he will take, whether he becomes a late-round steal some felt he was after the draft in 2017 or fades away, as many seventh-round selections do.

Highlight

Against the Halifax Mooseheads, Ivan Chekhovich’s goal displayed his offensive skill. After receiving the puck in the neutral zone, he then helped lead a 2-on-1 and instead of making the pass, he fired a wrist shot past the Mooseheads goaltender. This kind of goal is why Sharks fans salivated when he dropped to the seventh round and why more is expected of him offensively going into his third year of junior hockey.