By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Coming back to Raleigh early last August paid off for Valentin Zykov.
On Friday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had come to terms with the forward on a two-year contract worth $650,000 in 2018-2019 and $700,000 in 2019-2020.
Getting a head start in training and skating at Raleigh Center Ice as one of only a handful doing so eventually equated into an impressive season for the St. Petersburg, Russia native.
Zykov, 23, earned his NHL opportunity late in the 2017-18 season and appeared in 10 games for the Hurricanes, posting three goals and four assists (7 points).
“Just getting more comfortable, getting used to the place kind of helps when you get there a little earlier,” Zykov said of how his early training sessions helped.
It concluded a year which eventually resulted with him winning the 2018 Willie Marshall Award as the American Hockey League’s (AHL) leading goal scorer.
Producing 33 goals and adding 21 assists for 54 points in 63 games for Carolina’s affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, the six-foot-one-inch, 224-pounder also led the AHL in power-play goals (17) and shooting percentage (29.5%) and ranked tied for third in the league in game-winning goals (7).
“Valentin is a big body who proved he had the ability to finish around the net on the AHL and NHL levels last season,” president and general manager Don Waddell said.
Acquired by Carolina as part of a trade with the Los Angeles Kings back in February 2016, Zykov has worked hard to get his chance to play in the NHL following his selection in the second round (37th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Zykov’s junior career was highlighted with his selection as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Rookie of the Year in 2012-13 after tallying 75 points (40 goals, 35 assists) as a 17-year-old.
During three seasons in the QMJHL he posted 184 points (84 goals, 100 assists) in 162 games with Baie-Comeau and Gatineau.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport