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Tampa Bay Lightning sign forward Nikita Pavlychev to AHL contract

Baby Giraffe 3.0 is here!

COLLEGE HOCKEY: MAR 16 Big Ten Men’s Tournament - Michigan v Penn State Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Syracuse Crunch have announced that the team has signed center Nikita Pavlychev to an AHL contract for the 2020-21 season. Pavlychev was drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Originally from Yaroslavl, Russia, Pavlychev has been playing in the United States since the 2011-12 season. He played for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights 14U, 16U, and 18U, winning the AYHL 16U Championship in 2012-13. He made his USHL debut with the Des Moines Buccaneers for four games in 2013-14 recording one assist in four games. He spent the next two seasons in the USHL with Des Moines scoring 15 goals and 38 points over 100 games played.

After finishing his USHL career, Pavlychev joined the Penn State University Nittany Lions. Over four seasons of NCAA hockey, he recorded 36 goals and 70 points in 137 games played. He was a Big 10 champion in 2016-17 and Penn State were the Regular Season Champions in 2019-20.

It was only a couple days ago that the Lightning released Oleg Sosounov, affectionately known as Baby Giraffe 2.0 because of his great height. Baby Giraffe 1.0 was of course Andrej Sustr. Now with Pavlychev, the team has signed a 6’7” , 225 pound center to give us Baby Giraffe 2.0.

Pavlychev is a left shooting center. With his size, position, and being Russian, it’s easy to try and draw comparisons to him with Evgeni Malkin. When he was drafted by the Penguins, he said in an interview that Malkin is his favorite player and he tries to model his game after him. However, since being drafted by the Penguins, he has not lived up to that lofty of a dream.

For the Lightning, he’ll add depth up front for the Syracuse Crunch. He’s also likely to see some time in the ECHL during 2020-21 unless he is able to quickly translate his offensive skills to the professional game in Syracuse. He’s still a work in progress and that could be at least in part due to his large frame. Players that are that lanky always seem to take time to figure out their skating mechanics and coordination of their limbs.

If Pavlychev can continue his development in the minors and get the pieces to click, there is still a chance he could eventually make it to the NHL. The fact the Lightning didn’t sign him to an entry level contract though points to the Lightning front office thinking the likelihood of him making the NHL is still very low, but that they like him enough to give him a better look in the pro leagues.