Knights On Ice’s 2019-20 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. Six Knights On Ice writers created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that forms the final ballot.
Another former Hurricanes prospect who now calls Vegas his home is Valentin Zykov, who comes in at No. 16 in our Top 25 Under 25 rankings.
Zykov, originally a second-round selection (No. 37 overall) of the Los Angeles Kings back in 2013, played in just 10 games for the Golden Knights this past season after getting claimed on waivers in late December. The Knights were his third club of the 2018-19 season after playing 18 combined games with Carolina and Edmonton.
No. 16: Valentin Zykov
Age: 24 (May 15, 1995)
Size: 6-foot-1, 224 pounds
Zykov burst onto the scene at the end of the 2017-18 season when he scored three goals and seven points in 10 games with the Hurricanes. This was a follow-up to an impressive campaign with the Charlotte Checkers in which he led the entire AHL in goals with 33, finishing the season with 54 points in 63 games. He then added four goals and six points in eight playoff games.
The hype around Zykov was palpable.
However, he tallied just three assists in 13 games with the Hurricanes to start the 2018-19 season before surprisingly getting waived; he had even less success in a short stint with the Oilers before finding himself right back on waivers.
But Vegas was not deterred. In fact, the Knights had expressed interest in Zykov earlier in the season. He joined a small group of Knights players in their early 20s and was primed to be Vegas’ next success story.
The fact that the move put Vegas in a roster conundrum demonstrated the genuine belief in Zykov’s potential, and it ultimately resulted in Brad Hunt getting moved to Minnesota a few days later.
Zykov played well with Vegas but managed just two goals and zero assists in 10 games.
The former QMJHL Rookie of the Year averaged 11:37 of ice time a night but did manage to get a look on the top line with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault during a difficult stretch for the Knights.
He made the most of it, potting his first goal of the year on this pretty finish Feb. 5 against Tampa Bay.
The new-look top line put up a solid 62.82 Corsi For percentage in a limited sample size of just over 45 minutes of 5-on-5 action, but Zykov certainly didn’t look out of his element (aside from this blip at the blue line).
He made strong breakout passes, parked himself in front of the net and helped drive play. The scoreboard didn’t necessarily reflect it, but Zykov played quite well, which shouldn’t be overly surprising.
After all, he’s been a top (no, really) possession player throughout his career, which consists of 40 NHL games over the span of three seasons.
He’s a consistent play-driver with solid offensive instincts, great hands and an underrated shot.
Here it is again - Valentin Zykov’s insane OT winner! pic.twitter.com/QjVSqWGwIL— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) January 21, 2018
His passing isn’t bad, either.
Valentin Zykov with a nice feed from behind the net. pic.twitter.com/SnjG7KiZx5— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 11, 2019
But at the end of the day, it’s unclear how Zykov’s time in Vegas will play out.
He has one more year remaining on a one-way contract that carries a cap hit of $675,000, but whether or not he’ll be in the starting lineup coming out of training camp remains to be seen.
With Erik Haula and Nikita Gusev both out of the picture, there is a spot on the third line for which Zykov could be in the running, but he’ll have competition. He’s the type of player that could thrive in an offensive role if given the chance, but he’ll have to earn it first.
Previously in Vegas Golden Knights Preseason 2019 Top 25 Under 25: