Prospect Report: Nikita Chibrikov
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Nikita Chibrikov is one the most exciting and dynamic forward prospects in the 2021 draft class. If you’re a Rodion Amirov fan, you’re going to absolutely adore this kid. While Chibrikov isn’t the two-way force that Amirov is, he’s got Amirov’s offensive toolbox on steroids, with better skating. Chibrikov started out this season in the MHL, and has since been called up and split time between the KHL and MHL. His team, SKA, is the wealthiest program in the KHL. They can have nearly anyone they want on their roster, and they’re playing Chibrikov, a 5’10, 161 pound 17 year old. If that isn’t a glowing endorsement of his skill level, I’m not sure what is.
Chibrikov is an elite skater. His quickness, edge work, and lightning speed are everything a team can ask for in a scoring forward. In addition to that, he’s able to identify and carve out lanes for himself at will. His skating stride is nearly flawless, and his wide base combined with his strong edges make him a nightmare to take the puck off of. So far this season, Chibrikov is averaging nearly 6 controlled entries per game at the MHL level, and just under 3 controlled entries and exits per game at the KHL level. Look how effortless it is for him to gain the zone:
Plays like these aren’t exceptions for Chibrikov, they’re the norm:
His skating is the foundation to his entire game, so make sure to pay attention to it in the highlights throughout this report. Chibrikov is one of those players whose skills all complement one another, so pay attention to that too.
Chibrikov’s got a really fluid style to the way he handles the puck. He’s not a very flashy player for someone with his skating ability and toolkit, but he’ll pull off a highlight reel dangle every now and then. The thing that stands out about the way that Chibrikov controls the puck is how calculated he is. He always has the puck in a position to distribute, and protects it incredibly well. It’s almost as if Chibrikov can see a defender’s entire reach radius highlighted in red on the ice, and he just keeps the puck outside of it. When it comes to blending his puck handling with his skating, it’s seamless. Chibrikov’s fluidity in both skillsets combine to make him quite the puck possession machine. Watch how easily he maneuvers the puck around the offensive zone:
Here’s a taste of the aforementioned highlight reel dangles:
From what I’ve seen, Chibrikov’s wrist shot release is pretty dangerous. He’s able to get it off very quickly, and has the ability to shoot while toe dragging or making some other lateral move:
Something else I’ve noticed about Chibrikov’s shooting skills is he’s got a knack for knocking home wonky pucks, or getting quick shots off with minimal space:
There’s definitely more there when it comes to his goal scoring ability, as he’s got great instincts in terms of where to set himself up for shots.
Chibrikov’s vision is fantastic. He processes the game so quickly, and nearly always knows what he’s going to do with the puck before he gets it. Making quick plays is his bread and butter, and he’s got the passing ability to execute them with consistency. Here’s a few of my favorite examples of Chibrikov’s quick thinking:
(#40 in these clips is Anton Kosolapov, who I absolutely cannot believe wasn’t drafted. He’s awesome, but that’s an article for another day.)
This last play deserves an award:
You can see him take about a half second glance up the ice before flinging that stretch pass, turning on the jets, driving the net, and making a perfect play the instant he gets the puck back. I guarantee that Chibrikov envisioned all of that in his head during that half second glance up the ice.
For a player with his speed and hockey IQ, Chibrikov isn’t as effective defensively as one would expect. Sometimes he’ll be going full motor, acting as a near elite disruptor, and he gets some time on the PK because of this. Other times, he’ll simply disappear into the background when his team doesn’t have the puck. Chibrikov’s a scoring forward though, so I don’t expect Selke level defense anytime in the future.
For as small as he is, he’s really strong on his skates, and doesn’t shy away from contact. However, his physical game is only really effective when he’s moving quickly. He’s got a low center of gravity, and will drive his body into defenders, forcing them out of his way, like this:
Though when he’s at a standstill or along the boards, Chibrikov is easily overpowered.
It’s not hard to see why Chibrikov is so highly regarded by his Russian coaches, and I think he’s got all the tools to evolve into an impact scorer at the next level. I’m not sure if he’ll be the type to drive an entire team’s offensive engine, but imagine what a winger like him could do when paired with the right centerman. He’s my #1 Russian for the 2021 Draft, and it’s not even close.
Thanks for reading!