Although rookie Columbus Blue Jackets forward Dmitri Voronkov told the media last night, including The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, that he was “going to stay” with Columbus rather than return to Russia, he wasn’t the only Russian Blue Jacket contemplating an exit. (subscription link)
The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger relays word from forward Yegor Chinakhov’s agent, Shumi Babaev, who says that his client is seeking a change to his current situation. Babaev told Hedger via text message:
He doesn’t feel they trust him, and he wants to leave. They don’t understand how bad [Chinakhov] feels.
According to Hedger, this issue relates to the fact that Chinakhov “isn’t happy playing a fourth-line role” with the Blue Jackets. General Manager Jarmo Kekäläinen declined to comment on the matter.
He currently ranks third-to-last among Blue Jackets forwards in average ice time per game, above only Voronkov, who is a rookie, and Mathieu Olivier, who is an enforcer.
It’s worth noting that Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent did change up his lineup in a manner that favored Chinakhov for last night’s game, and Chinakhov responded with one of the better games of his career.
He scored a goal and added an assist as the Blue Jackets upset the Boston Bruins by a 5-2 margin.
But last night’s success still only brings Chinakhov’s total numbers to four points in 12 games, a far cry from what the Blue Jackets likely expected from the former KHL Rookie of the Year when they drafted him 21st overall at the 2020 draft. According to Hedger, Babaev “expressed Chinakhov’s concerns” to Blue Jackets management 10 days ago, but added that “no trade request has been made yet.”
Given how Chinakhov has struggled to make an impact thus far in his NHL career, it’s not exactly surprising that he’s thinking about how a change of scenery could benefit him. In 104 career games, Chinakhov has just 31 points and a career-best of 13 points in 30 games, which came last season.
Chinakhov has battled injuries along the way, though he hasn’t really had a chance to get significant ice time in the AHL and develop his game there. He is above point-per-game in 11 career AHL contests, but it appears playing Chinakhov with the Cleveland Monsters has never been seen as a legitimate development path for the forward.
Set to turn 23 in February, it’s looking increasingly as though Columbus won’t be the place where Chinakhov will be able to maximize his NHL potential. It’s possible that getting to play on his team’s third line alongside Voronkov and Cole Sillinger is exactly the kind of change Chinakhov needs, rather than a trade. But as we inch closer and closer to NHL trade season, these comments from Chinakhov’s agent cement the former top prospect as a key name to watch.
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