Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sunbelt Kid: NHL Draft Hopeful Jakob Chychrun Proud of Florida Hockey Roots

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sunbelt Kid: NHL Draft Hopeful Jakob Chychrun Proud of Florida Hockey Roots

Article excerpt

NHL draft hopeful proud of Florida roots

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Jakob Chychrun didn't fall in love with hockey on a frozen pond, or in a town where the game is treated like a religion.

He got hooked not far from the beach.

The six-foot-two 214-pound defenceman for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League -- expected to be among the top picks at June's NHL draft -- was born and raised about 70 kilometres north of Miami in Boca Raton.

"I consider myself very lucky to be able to grow up in Florida and still have the opportunity to play hockey," said Chychrun. "I knew at a young age this was what I wanted to do."

Coached by his dad, former NHL enforcer Jeff Chychrun, he developed his passion playing in local leagues as a youngster.

But the family knew that fulfilling his dreams would mean leaving home, so they devised a plan to keep life normal for as long as possible while maximizing his chances of one day making the NHL.

By the time he was 13, Chychrun and his father were making weekly round-trip flights from Florida to Michigan to play with the Little Caesars organization in Detroit, sometimes departing the sun and the sand on Thursday and returning in time for school on Monday.

"We definitely racked up the Air Miles those two years," Chychrun said in a recent interview. "But it taught me a lot about time management and discipline."

Then in the season before his OHL draft year, Chychrun (pronounced CHICK-run) moved north on a full-time basis to play with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. That standout campaign in minor midget led to Sarnia taking him first overall in the spring of 2014.

Chychrun, a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, has impressed observers in his 1 1/2 years with the Sting and was rated as the No. 2 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting at the season's midway point.

He captained Team Cherry at last month's BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver and looks to already have the physical maturity of a pro despite not turning 18 until the end of March. …

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