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Jakob Chychrun prepared for pro transition thanks to hockey pedigree

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jakob Chychrun is at peace with the fact that he may not be taken where he believes he should go in this weekend’s NHL Draft. 

A projected first-round pick, the 6-2, 205 lbs. defenseman slipped from the No. 2 to No. 4 North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. A knock like that used to bother Chychrun, but not any more.

After undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of his first OHL season in 2014-15, Chychrun bounced back with 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games, helping the Sarnia Sting to a division title.

Chychrun enters this year’s NHL Draft with a hockey pedigree. His dad, Jeff, played 262 games in the league. His uncle, Luke Richardson, racked up 1,417 games in The Show. His best friend’s father, Jeff Brown, suited up 747 times with seven NHL teams.

It’s safe to say Chychrun is fully prepared to make this transition from junior hockey to pro with all the resources he’s been surrounded with. It also helps that his dad was a fellow bruising defenseman back in his day.

“We both understand how tough it is for a young defenseman to play in the National Hockey League. But he believes if anyone can do it it’s me,” said Chychrun. “He’s really installed a work ethic in me that I have such a passion for this game. I want to be something special. I want to be something different. I work so hard at my craft, at my game, at the end of the day I believe in myself and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to fight for a spot come camp." 

Jakob Chychrun was born four years after Jeff retired, but he’s seen the YouTube videos of his fights and all three of his career goals in the NHL. He’s also heard the stories of playing with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. In helping to develop his son into an elite draft prospect while coaching him, Jeff instilled a mindset into Jakob about never being scared to try things on the ice. That helped his son fall in love with the game.

Who will call Chychrun’s name Friday night? It’s anyone’s guess. After the likely top three picks of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi, trades could shake up the expected direction of the draft. Our own Ryan Lambert has the Boca Raton, Florida native going seventh. Jeff Marek’s mock draft puts him 10th. TSN’s Craig Button sees him landing at No. 12.

What will the team who does select Chychrun get? This is what he says:

“A guy that’s ready for the National Hockey League; a good two-way defenseman, a mature, hard-working young man, leader. I want to step in a make an impact right away. I want to be a two-way defenseman. I know how tough it is for young defensemen to play in the National Hockey League and I want to show them I can defend and contribute offensively.”

NHL Central Scouting describes Chychrun as “A complete defenseman with the size, strength, speed and puck skills for today’s NHL. Chychrun is an excellent transitional skater who possesses high-end hockey sense, passing ability, a powerful shot and the poise to make plays under pressure. He plays a solid two-way game displaying quick offensive instincts, is responsible defensively and rarely out of position.”

Chychrun also added he feels his skating ability will translate best to the NHL game, along with his hockey sense. “I like to think a few steps ahead, always be aware of the situations -- who I’m out with, who I’m against,” he said.

As nerve-wracking as the entire NHL Draft process can be, Chychrun’s been able to experience it all with his best friend and fellow top prospect Logan Brown. Their dads were selected one pick apart in the 1984 draft and came up through the Napean Minor Hockey Association together. The kids would hang out together every summer and it was always all about hockey for them.

After all those years, their dreams are about to become a reality.

“This is kind of a moment we’ve been talking about since we could remember, since we were toddlers, really,” Chychrun said. “It seems like every hour it’s sinking in more. tomorrow’s the big day. I’ll try to get some sleep tonight and try to really enjoy the moment tomorrow and then looking forward to it being over. It was a long year -- lots of hype around this draft year. Looking forward to just being able to know where I’m going and focus on what’s to come.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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