Jr. Canadiens standout defenceman Jakob Chychrun was more nervous about what number he would wear with the Sarnia Sting next season rather than getting through his first press conference and photo shoot after the team took him first overall in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection.
Chychrun donned the number seven for a Canadiens squad that captured a GTHL Minor Midget AAA title and a second-place finish in this year’s rendition of the OHL Cup. A shoulder injury forced the six-foot-two, 200-pound defenceman to miss the final game of the GTHL championship and the entire OHL Cup, but the 16-year old has garnered enough attention throughout the year that Sarnia knew exactly the player they were getting.
“I try not to pay attention to all the other attention I may be getting because my focus is about taking everything day by day,” said Chychrun. “I’ve always been pretty good at (being able to block out extra pressure) and just going out there to play my game. The pressure of the game, winning for the team and doing anything for the team presents more pressure than anyone that could be watching.”
The numerous scouts and the interest that came with being a top-OHL prospect playing in the GTHL was an experience that he had not witnessed while he was playing in Detroit, Michigan. It was people’s intense passion for the sport and the heavy following that filled local arenas to watch the games that made his experience with the Canadiens a time he won’t soon forget.
John Winstanley is the coach of the Jr. Canadiens championship team and says Chychrun’s drive to be the best is what makes him such an excellent teammate, but it’s his leadership qualities that make him an even better person.
“So many things (about his game) are off-the-charts exceptional, but his hockey IQ separates him from most kids and then his natural ability just takes over,” said Winstanley. “His ability to see plays, make plays, recognize game situations and take advantage of those situations with his skill level just makes him such a special player.”
This special player is still only just a teenager and will transfer to Northern Collegiate, a high school that works alongside the team to help its players balance hockey and homework, next fall. His parents will fly down to watch their son play whenever they can but his second family won’t be too far away after nine Canadiens players were taken in the first five rounds of the draft.
The whole junior-hockey experience that comes with playing in the OHL is big step Chychrun says he’s prepared for and he can’t pick just one thing he’s looking forward to next season either. At least the Sting helped him temporarily decide on one thing: number five. Teammate Anthony DeAngelo currently wears the number seven for the Sting and Noah Bushnell is in possession of Chychrun’s second choice, six – the number his dad Jeff wore during his playing days. So for now, five will have to do.