(Photo credit: MHL)

By: Mark Whitfield | Follow me on Twitter @olop86

In part two of our series on the Bruins’ prospects in Europe, we travel to Russia to look at Boston’s fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft, Roman Bychkov. The defenseman was selected 154th overall after solid showings in the MHL and international tournaments. This season he is due to return to his hometown to play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl after a season with Amur Khabarovsk.

Bychkov has a long history with his hometown team, having played in their U16 and U17 programs and their minor league affiliate. He was a highly productive player at the junior level, posting 20 points in 24 games at the U17 level. He has also represented Russia at various international tournaments, putting up 11 points in 36 games.

Last year he played for Amur Khabarovsk in a season that was hit by Covid and cut short due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of Amur’s 50 games, he only played in 22, a lack of playing time that is likely to hamper his development.

At 5’11” and 182-pounds, he is not the tallest defenseman, but he is a solid physical presence on the ice. Since being drafted, he has put on about 20 pounds without losing any speed, something he needs to continue to develop before moving to North America. He plays aggressively, which has in the past led to some defensive breakdowns. However, this is an area of his game that he has worked hard on, improving significantly in his last season. 

(Photo credit: Jason Franson/CP)

On the puck, Bychkov is confident and moves up the ice well. He puts himself in good positions and distributes the puck. He creates opportunities for his team rather than taking them for himself, as demonstrated by the vast majority of his points coming from assists.

Bychkov is not the finished article and will likely need a few more years developing before making the jump to North America. His progression has been hampered by a lack of playing time. This is partly the result of a truncated KHL season but mainly due to him being a healthy scratch for several games. I can’t help feeling that he should have stayed in the VHL for another season to build on his success in 20-21 rather than making the jump to the KHL. Playing consistently in a slightly lower league would undoubtedly have aided his development more than struggling to put together a run of games in the KHL.

B’s fans will be underwhelmed by his production in the KHL last year, with two points in 22 games. However, they should bear in mind that this was a team that ranked 18th in the league and struggled with offensive production. His defensive statistics are far better, with a plus/minus of +3. Fans can also take heart that his production compares well with the other two NHL prospects in Yaroslavl’s defensive corps (Yeltsin, four points in 40 games, and Misyul, 3 points in 41 games).

In the long run, Bychkov has the potential to become a valuable piece for the Bruins’ organization. He is a solid defenseman who can contribute offensively. He plays aggressively, and his game has an edge that the Bruins are missing now. With a few more years and a few more pounds, Bychkov could come into the NHL and be an effective member of the Bruins’ defense.