When Jim Benning arrived in Vancouver to generally manage the Canucks after years in the Boston Bruins organization, he was asked if he planned to apply the "Boston model" of team-building. He pleaded ignorance. "I’m not really sure what the Boston model is, to be honest with you," he said.
Lies. If Benning isn't working with the Boston model, then how come just he signed a 6'8", 240-lb defenceman? That is the Boston model.
On Tuesday, at yet another town hall meeting, Benning tried to placate the torch-wielding mob with news of the Canucks' most recent transaction: a two-year, entry-level contract for towering Russian blueliner Nikita Tryamkin, whom the Canucks drafted 66th overall in 2014.
Now 21, the rearguard just finished a four-year stint with the KHL's Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. He's on his way to North America, and will see game action with the Canucks this season.
The Canucks' plunder of Europe is worth noting here. With Tryamkin on the way, it's possible that next year's Canucks will boast three players who have spent the last several years overseas. Benning has already mentioned the club's pursuit of skilled Swedish prospect Anton Rodin, and just last month, Vancouver acquired KHL defender Philip Larsen from the Edmonton Oilers with the intention of bringing him over next season.
Full marks to Benning and co. for thinking outside the box (and the continent) in their attempt to rebuild this team.
But back to Tryamkin. What can we expect from him? Why, here's Jim Benning's inelegant scouting report.
Benning said #Canucks have filed a contract for Nikita Tryamkin; he will play in Van this season. "He's 6-8, 240 and moblie, he's a freak"— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) March 9, 2016
A freak, Jim said! But we accept him. Gooble gobble, one of us.
Mobile is the key word here. Teams have added freakishly huge defencemen in the past. They always sound awesome, in theory, but they're rarely as mobile as they need to be to succeed in the NHL. That's why Zdeno Chara is such a special player. Most ice giants don't move like him. Most ice giants look like Shawn Bradley on skates, and Shawn Bradley never really looked all that comfortable in basketball shoes.
But if Jim Benning, master scout, is saying Tryamkin has mobility to go with that size, that's exciting. I love mobility. (Unless it's Bell Mobility. Their roaming packages are the worst.) I wouldn't get too excited, though. Not just yet. Benning has done a serviceable job building the Canucks' forward corps, but one look at the team's defence these days should have anyone questioning this management group's ability to assess defensive talent. Luca Sbisa and Matt Bartkowski are Benning acquisitions, after all.
We'll get to assess Tryamkin's skating for ourselves in short order. Expect to see him in the Canucks' lineup as soon as possible. Raw as he might be, he probably won't look too out of place on this blueline -- not when he's sharing the ice with the guys I just mentioned. The Canucks have nothing to lose but more hockey games anyway.
Plus the team really can't afford to waste any time getting him on the ice; the first year of his two-year pact starts now, and, as Tryamkin's deal has an AHL out clause that allows him an easy return to Russia if he can't stick with the Canucks, it behooves team to get him acclimatized to NHL ice in advance of next fall's training camp.
The hope, however, is that he isn't quite so allergic to the American Hockey League, if the Canucks try to send him down there. From the Vancouver Sun:
“He hasn’t told us that [he won't report to the AHL],” Benning said. “As far as him staying over here for the long term, we’re going to sign him and get him over here practising and then hopefully get him in some games between now and the end of the season.
“If he’s ready (for the NHL), that’s perfect. If he still needs time to develop, we’ll have to talk to him. With all Russian players, you hope that they stick it out for that development period and are part of your team long term.”
If he's ready. That's the fun thing about this signing. No one, Benning included, is entirely sure what the Canucks have here. The KHL is a hard league, but it's also a very different league. Tryamkin could be an instant star. He could be a future star. Or he could be the next Vladimir Krutov. I'll echo Elliotte Friedman in saying I'm very interested in seeing him play.