International Ice Hockey Federation

Checking in with Chychrun

Checking in with Chychrun

Top-rated Canadian blueliner stresses hard work

Published 14.09.2016 00:06 GMT+11 | Author Sabrina Rutz
Checking in with Chychrun
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 15: Denmark vs Canada preliminary round 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)
At the IIHF World U18 Championship, some players come across like kids in their interviews: nervous, lost for words. Jakob Chychrun comes across like a man.

The 18-year-old Sarnia Sting defenceman’s confidence is reflected in his strong two-way play on the ice. It’s no wonder that Chychrun is the top-rated blueliner for the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s expected to go in the top 10.

With 11 goals and 38 assists, he led his OHL franchise in scoring among defencemen, employing a hard but clean style with his 188-cm, 88-kg frame. Known for his conditioning, Chychrun has reaped comparisons to Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers, who won the Calder Trophy last year as well as gold with Canada at the IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic.

Chychrun, the son of ex-NHL defenceman Jeff Chychrun, grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, but elected to play internationally for Canada. It’s a decision he hasn’t regretted. Here in North Dakota, he’s relishing the role that Ryan Smyth, the former “Captain Canada,” is playing as an advisor to coach Shaun Clouston’s U18 squad.

He is also the nephew of Luke Richardson, who recorded more than 2,000 PIM in 1,417 NHL games on defence for six NHL clubs. So this young man has quite the hard-nosed pedigree.

We caught up with Chychrun after Canada’s 10-2 opening win over Denmark, which was interrupted by a lengthy blackout between the first and second periods.

How did you like the way you guys came out in the opener?

We were excited to get started here. We’ve been together for a few days now. We started in Winnipeg, and we were building toward this moment. We had a bit of a slow start in the first period, but it shows a lot of character in our group, being able to come back after that power outage and really take over the final two periods.

Have you ever dealt with a power outage like that as a hockey player before?

Never. Nothing like that. Even Ryan Smyth, in the many years he played, he came in and said he’s never experienced something like that. We were staying warm, doing everything we could to be prepared to finish. We all wanted to, and we were excited to get back out there.

Your Sarnia teammate Jordan Kyrou had a huge game with four goals, equalling the U18 record held by Alexander Ovechkin, Marian Gaborik, and others. What do you think of Jordan?

I think this is going to be a great tournament for him. Playing with him these last two years, he’s really something special. His potential is sky-high. He’s going to show a lot of people what he can do, and tonight was a good start for him.

Growing up in Florida, who did you look up to, and which team did you cheer for?

I played forward growing up, and I loved Sidney Crosby. He was always my idol. And then there was my dad, who got me into the sport. I wanted to be just like him growing up. I cheered for the Florida Panthers. My family had season tickets to them for many years. That’s been my team since I was little. But Hockey Canada has been great to me. I’m very proud and honored to have this jersey on.

What are the biggest lessons your dad taught you about how to be successful?

I think the biggest thing he taught me and my teammates growing up is that the only thing you control is how hard you work. You could have a terrible day at school, and anything can happen in life, but when you show up to the rink, it’s business time. That’s always stuck closely with me. I don’t like to be outworked or outcompeted.

In the early 1990's, your dad played with Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh and Wayne Gretzky in L.A. What was he able to pass on from those unique experiences?

It’s obviously very special that he’s had the opportunity to play with guys like that. He’s told me lots about them and guys like Mark Howe in Philadelphia. It’s also special that he’s been able to take me to NHL rinks so I could meet some of my idols. That kind of helped me fall in love with the game. He won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1992. That’s my ultimate goal too. Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps.

How about the impact of having Derian Hatcher as your owner and head coach in Sarnia?

He’s been great for me and my ‘D’ teammates. He took us aside a lot in practice all year. He teaches you a lot of tips that can be little but really go a long way. He works with video and has really gone the extra yard this year, so I really appreciated that.

Even though you’ve been around NHLers your whole life, what does it feel like to have ex-NHL greats like Trevor Linden, Ron Francis, and Ryan Smyth here in Grand Forks watching this team compete?

It’s awesome. Smitty’s been with us ever since Winnipeg. He played in 12 tournaments internationally for Canada. He’s been around the game a lot. He’s been great with us, interacting with us every single day. He’s just another piece that we can use and bounce ideas off of. We’re really learning a lot from him in a short time, and we’re looking forward to the next 10 days with him.

It’s been three years since Canada last won the U18. What will it take for you to get back on top of the podium?

I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing. We have a great game plan. We just need to play the Canadian way. We need to be fast, play hard, and be disciplined. If we do that, we also have a lot of skill on this team. We’re competitors and we don’t want to lose. We’re going to do everything we can to bring the gold medal back to Canada.


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