Who Is Vladimir Tkachyov?
It has been a long time since the Rangers had a great prospect pool. Trades for Keith Yandle, Eric Staal, and Martin St. Louis brought the Rangers varying degrees of success, but it cost them a lot of prospects. Each trade forced the Rangers to give up talented prospects and multiple high draft picks including Alexi Saarela, Anthony Duclair, John Moore, two first round picks, three second round picks, and a third round pick. These trades in the past few years, coupled with no Stanley Cup, can set a team back, but those are the consequences of “going for it” year after year. That being said, the Rangers have been able to counter those losses with non-traditional signings including Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey.
Kevin Hayes was drafted 24th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 entry level draft. Hayes played four years at Boston College where he played alongside Johnny Gaudreau. During his senior year, Hayes scored 27 goals and 38 assists, received consideration for the Hobey Baker award and was awarded the MVP at the Beanpot tournament in 2014. After the season ended, Hayes did not sign with Chicago and went to unrestricted free agency on August 15th, 2014. Five days later, Hayes signed an entry level contract with the Rangers. Three years later, Hayes is positioned to take over the role of number two center on a competitive Rangers team.
Jimmy Vesey was drafted 66th overall in 2012 by the Nashville Predators. Vesey played four years at Harvard and earned a top three Hobey Baker selection in 2015 and eventually won the award in 2016. During his final three years, Vesey played alongside Alex Kerfoot. Like Vesey and Hayes before him, Kerfoot will test free agency and has been linked to the Rangers. After being told that Vesey would not sign with them, Nashville traded his rights to Buffalo. Similar to Hayes, Vesey went to unrestricted free agency on August 15th, 2016. The rest is history. Vesey signed with the Rangers on August 20th, 2016 and went on to score 16 goals, 11 assists and 27 points in 80 games.
This year the Rangers have their sights set on Alex Kerfoot who will become a free agent on Tuesday. If Kerfoot signs with the Rangers, the Rangers will once again have signed a highly coveted NCAA free agent who can help the team immediately. However, there is another player that was undrafted and unsigned (kind of) by an NHL team that could make a huge impact with the Rangers in 2017-2018.
Vladimir Tkachyov, or Tkachev as it is sometimes spelled, is a 21 year old right handed shot who plays on the left wing. (Note: there is another Vladimir Tkachyov in the KHL, but he is two years older and a left handed shot.) Tkachyov is 5-10 and weighs between 150 and 165 pounds depending on where you look. Either way, Tkachyov is a very small forward, but he is extremely skilled on the offensive side of the game and in today’s NHL, size is becoming less of a factor in determining success. Players like Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello, and Johnny Gadreau have proven that smaller players can have great success in the NHL.
Who is Tkachyov
Tkachyov came onto the hockey scene when he was drafted by Avangard Omsk in the KHL. For the first two years of his career, Tkachyov played for their minor league team, Omskie Yastreby. During these two years Tkachyov put up 20G, 34A, and 54 points in 63 games. After 16 games in his second season, Tkachyov chose to travel across the ocean to play in the QMJHL in order to gain better exposure for the NHL draft.
Tkachyov played two seasons in the QMJHL split between the Moncton Wildcats and Quebec Ramparts. In 66 games, he scored 26G, 53 A, for 79 points. During this time, Tkackyov showed his explosive offensive skills, but questions were raised about his defensive abilities and size. His scouting report from Hockey’s Future stated: “Although small, Tkachyov is a dynamic offensive talent. An explosive skater and a wizard with the puck, he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his immense potential. Oodles of skill and game-breaking ability, the outstanding question is whether he can round out his game and get stronger.”
After his 2013-2014 season in the QMJHL, Tkachyov decided to enter the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but was not selected because of the concerns about his size and defensive abilities. Despite being undrafted, Tkachyov was offered a spot at Vancouver’s Training Camp. The Canucks liked what they saw at Training Camp and signed him to a three year entry level contract but this contract was annulled by the NHL. The Collective Bargaining Agreement stated that an undrafted CHL player was required to play a full season before he could be signed by an NHL team.
After he returned to the Ramparts, Tkachyov played one more season in the QMJHL between the Wildcats and Ramparts, scoring 16G, 33A for 49 points in 46 games.
As a 20 year old, Tkachyov decided to return to the KHL to improve his development in preparation for a potential jump to the NHL. In the 2015-2016 season, Tkachyov played the majority of his season split between SKA-St. Petersburg’s minor league teams. Tkachyov put up 8G, 7A, for 15 points before being called up to the top team for two games. After the 2015-2016 season, Tkachyov was traded to Admiral Vladivostok where he assumed a much larger role than he had when he was with SKA St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is traditionally a KHL powerhouse that currently has stars such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk. This increased responsibility allowed Tkachyov to excel scoring 39 points with 14 goals and 25 assists in 49 games.
Following the season, Tkachyov was an invite to the Rangers Prospect Development Camp, but was unable to attend due to visa issues. Tkachyov’s next move is up in the air at the moment, but it is likely he returns to Admiral on a one year deal for the upcoming season.
While he is leaning towards Admiral, there is still a good chance he comes to Rangers Training Camp. If he is able to come to camp, he has the skills to impress and turn heads. As I wrote in my last piece, Tkachyov is a player that could very easily steal a forward spot. When I asked about the possibility of him coming to Rangers training camp this year, the answer I received was that it was a real possibility, especially since he has not re-signed with Admiral yet. The Rangers would score a major coup if they are able to sign Tkachyov. Tkachyov would immediately give the Rangers an electric prospect with the potential to be a star in the NHL.
It is very hard to project how a player will do in the NHL based on how they perform in other leagues, but the KHL is one of the easiest and most consistent in terms of predictability. Typically, a .8:1 ratio is used when predicting a KHL player’s potential NHL production. Recently many analysts and writers used this to predict how Ilya Kovalchuk would produce after his long hiatus from the NHL. Over the course of 82 games Tkachyov would have scored 65 points if he kept up the same level of production in the KHL. After converting to NHL points, this puts Tkachyov at 52 points over the course of 82 games. That is very solid production, especially considering he is only 21 years old and still has time to develop.
While we should not have unreasonable expectations, it is fun to imagine Tkachyov wearing the Blueshirt when the Rangers break camp. If he is able to jump through all of the hurdles and make the team, there are a number of options I can envision. First, Tkachyov will not be starting in the AHL. The KHL is a more competitive league than the AHL and would allow Tkachyov to develop for another year in closer proximity to his family and his comfort zone. Unless there is a dialogue and understanding that the AHL would be a temporary assignment, Tkachyov will be in the NHL or KHL.
If Tkachyov is on the roster on October 5th, it will be because he is able to show the Rangers enough skill and ability to be in the top nine. With his skillset and talent, a fourth line role would be detrimental to his development and growth as a player. Ideally, Tkachyov would be put on a line with Buchnevich or Kreider (Kreider is fluent in Russian). This would allow Tkachyov to communicate easier and would give him some level of comfort in a new country and league. However, this is not an absolute must. The Rangers have a lot of options on the wing and can create any number of combinations. It is for this very reason that I do not believe Tkachyov will end up in a Blueshirt this year. With Kreider, Buchnevich, Nash, Zuccarello, Miller, and Vesey, the Rangers already have a logjam of top 9 forwards.
Ultimately, I do not expect Vladimir Tkachyov to be on the Rangers this year. There are too many hurdles in the way for this year. That being said, I believe that Tkachyov has a very good shot of being invited to training camp and offered an entry level contract with the Rangers. This would be a huge boost to the Rangers prospect pool and would give the Rangers another high upside prospect for the near future. The Rangers need to be very aggressive with Tkachyov before another team swoops in and steals him out from our fingertips. I would hate to see him burning us for highlight reel goals in the years to come.