|8||Valentin Zykov||5/15/95||RUS||2nd round, 37th overall (2013)||QMJHL||8|
Valentin Zykov has been in the Kings' organization since we began doing the Top 25 Under 25 back in 2013, and he has been voted 8th in every iteration of the series. This season, that likely isn't a good thing. The top end of the list thinned out - Martin Jones, Drew Doughty, and Slava Voynov either graduated or left the team - and Zykov didn't even manage to move up by attrition.
Zykov was initially projected as a potential late first round draft pick in 2013. Instead, he slipped to the Kings in the second round of that draft. In the year he was drafted, Zykov was given the QMJHL's rookie of the year award. Since then, his progress has halted. Well, on the scoresheet it has.
Despite stagnant offensive totals, the Kings seem positive about his overall development. Since being drafted, reports about both his defensive ability and leadership skills have been very encouraging. The Kings, always on beat, are also fond of his physical game. They even dared to compare him to Dustin Brown:
"He really knows himself as a player; sometimes kids have a problem critiquing themselves. ... He was a kid that fit the Kings' culture. Not having a first round pick, we feel that we acquired a first round caliber player. ... He's a thicker body. He's more of a Dustin Brown-type physical body, as far as where he should end up. He should be a real heavy puck guy in the corners, but a lot more vision and play-making ability, I would think... He's always shown the ability to make plays and [be] a real strong passer who can finish, as well. I think that there's a pretty high bar as far as the expectation."
The Kings really love thick bodies, and who can blame them.
With all that said, you can't just ignore his stalled offensive production. His 1.09 points per game in 2014/15 represent a low for his junior career. Some of that may be explained away by the fact that he suffered a sports hernia. After playing in 67 and 53 games the previous two seasons, Zykov worked his way into just 42 games during the most recent regular season. Zykov was also traded mid-campaign. His new team was a bit worse offensively than the teams he played for previously in his junior career. Both of these things may be factors, but the overall numbers are still concerning.
The big Russian forward is still eligible to return to the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL for a final junior season, but it is much more likely that he starts the season with the Ontario Reign in the AHL. As one of the only high-end offensive prospects in a shallow prospect pool, his progress will be particularly exciting to monitor this season.