Player Spotlight: Nikita Pavlychev
How many true freshmen in college sports are also the most physically imposing players on the field, court, or rink? Not many, which is what makes Nikita Pavlychev such a special player for Penn State.
Listed at 6-7 and 212 pounds, it is extremely easy to spot the number 13 on Pavlychev’s jersey wherever he is on the ice.
“I’ve been playing forever; since I was little and I don’t think anyone thought I would be this tall,” Pavlychev said about his immense height.
Not only is he a monster in college, but if Pavlychev were in the NHL right now he would be the sixth tallest player in the league. This size is one of the reasons the Pittsburg Penguins recently drafted him in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. A body this big is something you don’t stumble across often, but Pavlychev has great skill, specifically with his hands, for someone of his size.
“I feel like there’s always going to be problems with stuff like coordination, but I’ve gotten used to it now as I am growing into my body,” Pavlychev stated when asked about how his body affects his skill on the ice.
Pavlychev was born in Yaroslavl, Russia which is one of the reasons he has grown up playing hockey. Fans still may wonder why a player of this size is a forward when players often with this body are better used at the defensive end. They can use the gigantic frame to block shots as well as lay punishing hits against smaller players, but Pavlychev has found a different way to implement his advantage. Most often in the Nittany Lions offensive zone, the big fella can be seen parked in front of the opposing goalie. It cannot be pleasant for any net minder to attempt to look around someone of that size.
So far in his freshman season, Pavlychev has found the net twice with three assists. These numbers may not jump off the page like fellow Russian and freshman Denis Smirnov’s do, but it has been the little things Pavlychev does that are most impressive. While it may seem like Smirnov and Pavlychev are very similar since they are both Russian, what they do on the ice is extremely different. Smirnov brings flare to the game while Pavlychev brings physicality to the ice.
In Penn State’s past series against Alaska-Anchorage, Guy Gadowsky placed Pavlychev in the same line with Zach Saar. This may seem like a meaningless change to most college hockey fans, but Saar is another giant standing at 6-6 himself.
“I’m pretty sure if the two of us stand on the blue line we will cover the entire ice,” Pavlychev joked.
Getting more serious he said, “I think we did pretty well together and I liked it and enjoyed playing with him a lot.”
This length is a key part of Pavlychev’s value as he can reach around opponents with ease to take the puck. As Pavlychev continues to develop he will emerge as a powerful goal scorer for the Nittany Lions who is a force to any defense trying to stop him.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email email@example.com.