Weight: 195 pounds
Date of birth: December 4, 2000
Hometown: Chelyabinsk, Russia
OHL Draft: Round 1, 16th overall, 2017 CHL Import Draft
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Preseason, November: B Prospect, Mid-term: 55 North American Skaters
During the 2016-2017 season, Ottawa 67’s defenceman Nikita Okhotyuk played his hockey back in his native Russia for his hometown team in Chelyabinsk. He began the year showing promising offensive numbers in Russia’s Under-17 league before moving up the Russia’s equivalent to the OHL, the MHL. Following his season, the 67’s would use the 16th overall pick to select him in the CHL Import Draft.
Okhotyuk brought with him plenty of international experience having represented Russia at the Under-17’s, Under-18’s and the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament. He also brought with him some excellent leadership qualities, having worn a letter for Russia and was Captain of his Russian squad at the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament.
Okhotyuk would make the 67’s roster during the 2017-2018 season and he would wear the barber shop pole uniform 53 times during the season and score 5 goals and assist on 6 others.
The 2018-2019 season saw the 67’s being heavy favorites for an OHL Championship and a Memorial Cup run. The 67’s blueline was deep and often saw Okhotyuk playing on the third pair. He dressed in 56 regular season games (there was a 3-game suspension in there) scoring just 2 goals and assisting on 15. What is interesting to note with the 67’s blueline is that for the vast majority of the season they carried 7 defencemen – all left shots so you always had someone skating on their weak side.
Despite not getting top quality minutes, Okhotyuk’s ranking on various public rankings has remained virtually unchanged. NHL Central Scouting ranked him 55th among North American skaters on their mid-term rankings, and he dropped just one spot on their final rankings.
At this point, after two OHL seasons. It’s difficult to determine what type of player Okhotyuk will be at the next level. There is no questioning his determination, drive and work ethic. His body is already almost filled out. He’s a very good skater with excellent edgework. His mobility is excellent in any direction.
Defensively, there isn’t a lot of work to be done by Okhotyuk. He has a very active stick, keeps his gaps tight, rides people out along the wall, battles hard in front of his goal, is one of the better open ice hitters in the league and is a superb shot blocker – OHL coaches recognized that ability in the annual Coaches Poll.
His skating allowed him to retrieve pucks quickly. However, he didn’t always show that he was capable of making the right play. He was caught at times trying to force plays that would result in turnovers. But as the season progressed, there was a marked improvement in his awareness and decision making. His skating is good enough that he can rush the puck out of the zone and his passing is very good. As his confidence grew and his opportunities with more ice time grew, those qualities became more evident.
It’s Okhotyuk’s offensive upside that raises questions. As the season wore on, he began jumping up into the play more often and with greater confidence. He has a howitzer of a shot from the blueline, but to often he passes on the opportunity to put the puck to the net. His vision is good and he is an excellent passer, which should help him offensively.
At the very least, Okhotyuk can be an excellent shut down defender who will kill penalties and play a physical game that won’t put you down a man (suspension aside here). At best, he can be all that and add some timely offence.