Player Spotlight: Nikita Pavlychev
At 6-foot-7 and 212 pounds, Nikita Pavlychev is a large man. His size is something that can’t be taught. What can be taught is how to use his size. That is something Pavlychev is still trying to master.
The sophomore forward came to Pennsylvania from Yaroslavl, Russia. He first played hockey in Pennsylvania for the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Knights during the 2012-13 season. That year, he recorded 26 points in 21 games.
After Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pavlychev played parts of three seasons in the USHL for the Des Moines Buccaneers. There, he scored 38 points in 100 games.
Last year, he came to Penn State, but not before being drafted in the 7th round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015.
The transition for European players coming to North America can be difficult, not to mention for those who are student-athletes. Coming here a few years ago has definitely helped Pavlychev with his transition into American culture.
His freshman year was a big adjustment for him. With Penn State’s offense being so productive, Pavlychev was not expected to score many points. The tempered expectations helped ease him into his new team and the grind of college hockey.
Pavlychev was able to score six times in his freshman campaign, adding another seven assists for 13 points. For the role he played last year, that was decent production.
As a big body, Pavlychev towers over his competition. Conventionally, Pavlychev would be expected to park himself in front of the net and be an obstacle for opposing goaltenders. He does that at times, but Penn State and Guy Gadowsky’s style of play is for everyone to contribute and cycle around the offensive zone.
That means Pavlychev will take more shots from areas on the ice that he may not be accustomed to shooting from. Last year, Pavlychev was clearly lacked confidence in his shot. He missed the net often, one of the main reasons he only scored six goals. Over the summer, Pavlychev sought to improve his shot.
So far this year, with higher expectations, his hard work is paying off. His sophomore season started slowly. He scored just once in the first seven games of the season, but since then, he has caught fire. He scored in four straight games before the Nittany Lions were shutout last Saturday at Notre Dame.
WIth his newfound knack for scoring, the next step for Pavlychev is to take advantage of his size. Pavlychev is one of the biggest bodies on the ice on every shift, yet at times, he gets bodied around. Pavlychev is definitely a physical player who is not afraid to throw his weight around, but at times he tries to be too cute. He’ll try to skate by or deke past a defender and get stripped of the puck instead of using his brute force to beat the opposition. His height allows him to have one of the longest sticks of any player. Because of that, he has a longer reach than most, but sometimes he forgets how big he is and only uses his stick instead of his strong body.
As Pavlychev matures as a hockey player, he will meld the two parts of his game. With more experience, he will learn how to use his size to his advantage. Once he figures it out, he will be a physical force for the Nittany Lions and eventually the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As this season continues, Pavlychev will continue to be one of Penn State’s most important players. He is a confident player right now and he seems poised to continue his recent scoring surge.
Don’t forget that Pavlychev is only a sophomore. There is plenty of time for maturation and development. He will continue to hone his game and will only improve as he gains more experience.
Josh Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.