Monday, May 21, 2018

2018 NHL Draft Preview: Jonathan Tychonick

Hi everybody, and welcome back to our look at the 2018 NHL Draft coming up in June.

Today we look at Jonathan Tychonick.

Left-shooting defenseman for the Penticton Vees, BCHL

6'0" 174 lbs

48 games, 9G 38A 47 points

His draft rankings as of today are:

HockeyProspect - #29

ISS Hockey - #29

FutureConsiderations - #36

McKeens - #NR

NHL Central Scouting - #36 (NA Skaters)

Steadily rising up the rankings throughout the season is the smooth-skating defenseman from the BCHL. For anybody curious, Tychonick (pronounced TIE-CON-ICK) is playing for Penticton, an absolute powerhouse of a team in the BCHL (Jr. A) that has had players drafted recently such as Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro. Being a Jr. A league, it means that the BCHL is not a top league where players get drafted out of. Moreso, it has been a pathway to the NCAA (generally) where players then get drafted. A prime example of this would be Duncan Keith. I say generally because players can go to the WHL afterwards for their draft-eligible year - examples would be Ryan Johansen and Scott Gomez, and additionally some players can get drafted right out of the BCHL (that means they play in the league during their draft-eligible years). Examples include Beau Bennett, and a handful of high-end players drafted in recent years. Players like Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, Dennis Cholowski were recent first round picks drafted while playing in the BCHL in their draft-eligible year. All three of these players were drafted by teams in the WHL, but had committed to, and decided to pursue the NCAA route. Fabbro to Boston University; Jost to U. North Dakota; Cholowski to St. Cloud State U. That brings us to Tychonick, who's committed to U. North Dakota for the upcoming season.

While the BCHL has had a slight uptick in high-end draft eligible players, for many players it's still a bit of an issue of exposure since it's tough to get to from the East coast. I think this is why Tyconick has been a bit underrated in his projected rankings, and it's a bit of an age-old issue where players in Jr. A who aren't completely dominating their competition (like Jost or Cale Makar from the AJHL), it's difficult to assess their levels of skill because of the levels of competition. This is further complicated by a draft class that is so deep with high-end defensemen that it's being defined by the defensemen available. However, one of the things about Tychonick's play is that he is putting up some incredible numbers. In fact, with 17 points (3G 14A) in 11 games, Tychonick is now the highest-scoring U18 defenseman in BCHL playoff history. Tychonick was the best defenseman in the BCHL this year and looks to have high-end offensive potential. With that said, let's take a look at what Jonny Tychonick brings to the table.

Tychonick is a smart two-way defenseman who displays elite-level skating. He knows when he should and shouldn't join the offensive rush, and uses his skating to make it happen. Whatever happens on the ice, Tychonick can go wherever he wants and use his skating to get back defensively as quickly as he got to whatever spot he went to - deep in the offensive zone, pinch at the blue line in the OZ, intercept a pass in the neutral zone, etc. His pivots, edgework, and lateral quickness help demonstrate his agility as well. What I'm trying to say here is that everything that comprises Tychonick's game is a result of his skating. One area that Tychonick will need to improve on - and this is consistent throughout his game regardless of the specific aspect - is his strength. Building more lower-body muscle will make it tougher to knock Tychonick off the puck, and while his skating is explosive (he can get to his top speed in just a few strides), adding more lower-body muscle can't hurt with his explosiveness.

The blanket labels of "two-way", "offensive", "shutdown", etc. for defensemen are not as indicative of the difference in playing styles within each category. I would describe Tychonick's game as two-way, but more on the offensive side of things. Tychonick's offensive instincts are very good and is able to create scoring opportunities as well as ensuring the puck stays in the offensive zone with his good vision and decision-making. Tychonick's game is steadily based in his skating and his stellar playmaking abilities. I think it's really interesting how he plays as well because, alluding what what was said in the skating section, Tychonick is really able to control the offensive zone blue line (and really demands respect doing so) because of his skating level and his patience with the puck/play. Tychonick has excellent puck-handling skills and isn't afraid to be aggressive on the rush. His skating speed and edgework oftentimes catch opponents off-guard in such events. Tychonick plays with his head up (as someone of his size must play, but more on that later) and his combination of vision and puck skills allow him to make crisp, accurate passes - many times through traffic. Tychnick's snap and wrist shots have sneaky quick releases, and it's not uncommon for him to sneak down to the top or middle of the face-off circles and release his shot. Tychonick does have a decently hard slap shot, but that could stand to improve (again, this could come with building muscle). I will say that Tychonick's slap shot isn't holding him back from playing hockey at a higher level, but could stand to be improved. He doesn't usually use his slap shot to find the back of the net, but rather as a means of creating rebounds. One other aspect of his offensive game that I really like is his ability to use space his opponents give him. Opponents must respect his speed so they give him space. With that space given up, Tychonick will exploit it, usually by wiring a pass or sneaking a shot through. If opponents try to play a tight defensive game then, as mentioned above, he'll blow right past them. I'm really curious to see how this aspect of his game develops as he moves up the levels of hockey to play against bigger, stronger, and faster opponents.

Defensively it's important to start with the fact that Tychonick is a bit undersized, but I think a lot of times these issues are overblown. His size and need for building muscle make themselves prevalent in his board battles and battles in the corner. There are elements to his defensive game that need to be improved, but his skating helps really nullify any "shortcomings" (I say this in quotes because it's not that he's bad at any elements defensively, it's just that his skating is so much better than his other traits). The most important thing about his defensive game is that the skating is there to not only maintain good gap control on opponents and to push attacking opponents to the outside along the boards, and his smarts are there for ensuring good positioning, staying out of the goalie's line of sight, etc. It's also important to note that he doesn't shy away from physical play either. He won't make a big open-ice hit, but he'll duke it out in the corners or around the crease. He also never stops moving his feet.

I wanted to make a paragraph to specifically talk about his ability to start the breakout. Tychonick is definitely in the top echelon of defensemen this draft when it comes to leading a breakout. He can do this by either skating the puck up himself or launching a long stretch pass up the ice to an attacking forward. There's more to a defenseman's game than just getting the puck out of the zone, but I really do think Paul Castron and crew have been keeping an eye on Tychonick because of his ability to do so (more on that later). Steve Kournianos put it best in his CJHL Top Prospects Game: Player Notes regarding Tychonick's break-outs.

He should wear No. 911 on the back of his jersey, because he’s the first player his mates call to get the puck out of the zone.

What you're getting in Jonny Tychonick, besides yet another incredible hockey name in this draft, is a good, fluid, two-way defenseman who checks all the boxes for a modern era defenseman. I believe he has high potential offensive upside and is very smart defensively (and plays bigger than his size suggests). Going to North Dakota - and the NCAA - will really help him build muscle, get bigger, and help him to play the game that he wants to be able to play at a higher level. He has beautiful skating and is an artist breaking the puck out of the zone. Why Tychonick is not projected higher is a combination of exposure playing in the BCHL, competing in a draft class chock-full of high-end (and better known) defensemen, as well as his need to build muscle on his frame...but also because of the fact that there isn't necessarily a limit on his talent capacity, but because of the question posed: is his potential upside higher than that of other defensemen in the draft? I think his upside is higher than others may give him credit for. I don't quite have a floor for his upside, but he likely slots in as a 2nd pair two-way LD. At the same time, I can also see him taking a huge step forward next year and putting up some incredible numbers at North Dakota. What I'm trying to say is that it wouldn't shock me if he ends up as a top-pair LD, but at this point it's more likely he'll be a 2nd pair guy. The skills and smarts are all there. The big question is how high the ceiling goes. This upcoming year will be very telling as to what his future entails. I can see him spending 3 years at North Dakota.

There's an air of intrigue in my mind when it comes to the Devils drafting him. He checks all the boxes of what Shero and Hynes are looking in a defenseman, and I feel that Hynes would really enjoy coaching him. I also feel that Shero could take advantage of the fact that Tychonick may not be projected to go where the Devils pick (17 OA), which would allow Shero to trade back to recuperate an asset or two and still get the guy he and Castron want. I'm not a sports betting man (but I could be now, thanks to the Supreme Court), but my gut is telling me that if the Devils trade down their pick by 2 or more spots, then we could very much be picking Tychonick. However that's just a gut feeling and there's still plenty of time before the draft for interviews, team meetings, etc.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Jonathan Tychonick! Thank you so much for reading!

Other draft write-ups:

Bode Wilde

Nils Lundkvist

Evan Bouchard

K'Andre Miller

Ty Smith

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