Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Christian Kyrou is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect and he plays for the OHL’s Erie Otters.
Kyrou hails from Komoka, Ontario. For those unfamiliar with Komoka, it’s a 20 minute drive west of London, Ontario.
His brother is Jordan Kyrou of the St. Louis Blues. Jordan had played for the Sarnia Sting during his time in the OHL and was drafted by the Blues in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Christian played youth hockey for the Lambton Jr. Sting before joining the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs U16 AAA team. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection Draft at pick #84 by Erie and made his OHL debut the following season (2019-2020).
This past season (2021-2022), he was third in total points for all OHL defensemen. Hamilton’s Nathan Staios led the league with 66 points. Saginaw’s Pavel Mintyukov was second with 62 points and Kyrou was two points away from tying Mintyukov. But, Kyrou did have the edge on Mintyukov in goals and led all draft year defensemen (playing in the OHL) in goals with 18. Given how strong Kyrou’s offensive game is, it will be interesting to see how he progresses in his development. Let’s talk about his overall game and what is next for Kyrou to refine in his development.
D.O.B – September 16, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –183 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right
Kyrou’s Style Of Play
Christian Kyrou is a solid offensive defenseman. He will pinch up and utilizes quality puck manipulation when looking to drive up in the zone. Kyrou does a good job of drawing attackers and then quickly moving the puck in the opposite direction. Once he has enough separation, he then attempts a pass to the slot. Usually, he has to make a quick pass and can’t hang onto the puck for too long because he has a short stride that prohibits him from getting a ton of separation. So, when he has just the amount of separation that he needs, he looks to capitalize there and then.
When Kyrou has pinched up and is facing tight pressure in the corner, he will utilize good stick-handling reach when trying to get away from pressure. That allows him to net separation and then drive towards medium danger to attempt a shot or pass. But, he doesn’t just possess have good stick handling reach, he secures the puck nicely by playing the puck wide when looking to shift around pressure. Kyrou pushes the puck wide enough to ensure that the attacker can’t get his stick on the puck.
When driving up the side of the ice and skating in medium danger, if he draws an attacker to him and he has a teammate skating in front of the attacker on the way to the low slot, he will use his reach to push the puck away from the attacker’s stick and then complete a shovel pass to his teammate. Kyrou does a good job of adapting to the situation at hand and finding a solution rather quickly. So, you will see Kyrou use a lot of tight passing lanes when looking to get the puck to dangerous areas and away from the attacker facing him head on. That has led to quite a bit of 5v5 primary assists.
When trying to navigate around an attacker in the offensive zone who is implementing very tight pressure, he will try to cradle the puck underneath the attacker’s stick shaft. Given that Kyrou doesn’t have a lot of speed and his mobility needs more refinement, he will struggle with acceleration and that can make it a challenge for Kyrou to get the puck around the opposition without being deceptive with his stick handling. So, I love that he tries to push the puck underneath the stick shaft. He is working with the space that he has. Will it work every single time? No, but you can’t expect it to. Should he try it when pressure isn’t air tight? No, because that gives the opposition time to assess the situation and adapt. He has to do it when facing tight pressure.
Kyrou will pinch up to grab a hold of loose pucks when they pop up along the boards at the perimeter and then he quickly looks to find a teammate along the perimeter that he can complete a lateral pass to.
Over the course of the last few paragraphs, you’ve read the words “pinch up” quite a bit. Kyrou loves to pinch up to place loose pucks and key up medium and high danger opportunities. While he loves to be engaged offensively, sometimes he will overcommit to puck battles. He just needs to be slightly cautious because if there is already two teammates in the vicinity, he could open up the risk of an oppositional odd man rush should they manage to capture the puck and escape Kyrou and his teammates. Given that he doesn’t have a lengthy stride extension, he can’t just bail out on a dime and get back in position to cover the rush.
When it comes to his shot, he loves to skate up to the perimeter and fire a wrist shot. Sometimes, he will look to shoot from medium danger but it comes to down to how much space he has in front of him. Since he isn’t the fastest skater on the ice, if the attack is defending against his stick-handling very nicely and not opening up gaps, he will struggle to get the puck to medium danger as he doesn’t have strong activation off of his edges to net the separation that he desires. Even though he will struggle to get a good shooting lane in medium danger consistently, he makes the best out of his shots from the perimeter. He has scored quite a few goals this season from the perimeter. While he has found a lot of success with his shot, he has a big wind-up and that can make him very predictable. Attackers will catch on quickly and understand that Kyrou is about to shoot. That allows the attackers to adapt and take away the shooting lane. It works in the OHL, but NHL opponents will catch on. Even though it makes him predictable if you have watched a lot of film on him and have a good read on his shot mechanics, he could utilize his big wind-up and be deceptive with it. Kyrou could fake out attackers and make them believe that he is looking to fire a wrist shot from the perimeter. Then he could cut in and take a shot from closer up. I’d love to see him use his wind-up to create opportunities like that and I think he could pull it off quite regularly too.
For an example of the lengthy wind-up, check out the clip below.
But, as you can see in the below clip, he use that lengthy wind-up to create separation and then drive closer in before shooting.
At the beginning of the season (2021-2022), his gap control was not preventing attackers from carrying the puck closer to net front. Kyrou wasn’t assertive enough. Over the course of the season, he started to be far more assertive. Unfortunately, his speed prohibits how effective he is when using assertive measures. Right now, Kyrou doesn’t have the foot speed nor the upper body strength to put up a fight against attackers coming to the low slot. He will try to lower his body and take up space when an attacker has the puck in medium danger, but he struggles with picking the right spot to defend from and he will give the attacker just enough room to get the puck past him.
The same positioning issue pop up when he defending along the boards as he doesn’t pick the best position to attack from. Since he struggles with gaining acceleration, he can’t use his lateral crossovers to get himself in place to complete a hip check. Instead, the attacker can skate around him before Kyrou delivers the hip check. By the time Kyrou is in position to deliver the hip check, the attacker is long gone and Kyrou ends up making contact with the boards.
Not only does his speed hurt his ability to execute checks and hurts his gap control, but it also means that he struggles with puck retrievals / defensive recoveries. With his limited speed, he will struggle to get the inside track to the puck and more often than not he is on the outside. But, even in situations where he can get and keep the inside track, he usually isn’t fast enough to get the puck and the navigate out of pressure. Since he doesn’t have the speed to ensure a clean retrieval, sometimes he doesn’t go for loose pucks in the corner and I think it’s because he knows that he won’t be able to get the necessary speed to go north-south to collect the puck. So, he’d rather put pressure on the attacker who wins possession because he’d at least be in spot where he can trap the attacker if he uses his upper body to push them into the boards.
In addition to his skating speed, Kyrou also needs to work on reaction timing as he will struggle with poke checks and picking the precise moment to use his stick blade to steal possession of the puck. If he mistimes the poke check and the attacker has speed, the attacker can garner quality separation and get himself in possession to attack from more dangerous areas.
When in possession of the puck and looking to avoid on-coming pressure, Kyrou generally is pretty quick at getting the puck away from danger. When he has an attacker approaching him at speed and he has an open teammate in the neutral zone, he will look to complete a quick bounce pass off the boards to get the puck away from the attacker and in the hands of his teammate. At open ice if pressure is closing on him and he has an open teammate not too far away, he will try shovel passes after pushing the puck far enough from the attacker’s stick blade to ensure that the attacker can’t get his hands on the puck. With his reach, he can also extend the puck far enough out from the attacker to gain separation, but since his speed is somewhat limited, he typically looks to complete a quick outlet feed after pushing the puck away from the attacker. Kyrou will also use puck manipulation to open up space for himself to complete outlet passes by luring the attacker to one side and then quickly cradling the puck to the other side. That allows Kyrou to open up passing lanes that he wouldn’t have had if he didn’t use manipulation tactics.
As I’ve mentioned throughout the report, Kyrou’s struggles with speed and mobility prohibits him from moving the puck effectively from zone to zone to zone if he intends to control possession throughout. When skating through the neutral zone and facilitating a controlled zone exit, he doesn’t have the straight line speed and the edges to swerve around on-coming pressure. Even though he does struggle with getting separation speed, he can rely on his stick-handling reach and his deception to get open ice for himself. He use similar tactics that he uses in the offensive zone. In tight pressure, he will look to push the puck underneath the triangle to get around the attacker. So after quickly netting the slightest amount of separation, he doesn’t hold onto the puck for long and looks to complete a pass to a forward near the offensive zone blue line.
When he doesn’t have possession of the puck and is defending against the rush, he ends up gliding quite a bit in the neutral zone and using short stride extensions. By gliding, he loses any speed that he had before gliding and thus he has to regain the acceleration to contend against oppositional puck movement. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the activation needed to gain enough speed after gliding to implement tight pressure. He will need to cut down on his gliding to keep himself well-aligned to puck movement.
Like I mentioned in the offensive section, Kyrou will overcommit to puck carrying attackers from time to time and it is also prevalent in the neutral zone. He will overcommit to puck carrying attackers playing close to the offensive zone blue line, but due to his speed, he will struggle to get close enough to the puck carrier to implement pressure. So, his defensive partner has to cover for both of them when the attacker is able to find open ice to continue the rush.
When in close range of the attacker in the neutral zone and the attacker has control of the puck, but has secured the puck so that it isn’t exposed to Kyrou, Kyrou will slap his stick blade at the attacker’s stick blade to try to force puck disruption for the attacker. But, this only works when Kyrou is in close proximity to the rush. As I mentioned in the defensive section, he will struggle with positioning himself properly to counter the oppositional puck movement and it’s the same situation in the neutral zone.
I’ve talked about his skating quite a bit throughout the report, so I’m going to keep this section rather short.
He doesn’t have great skating posture and his stride extensions are short. That puts a limitation on how much speed he can gain when skating in a straight line. At the end of the year, I did notice that Kyrou was experimenting with longer stride extensions from time to time. He was gaining solid speed with those extensions, but he wasn’t using lengthy extensions on each shift.
He can manufacture some speed off of his crossovers when looking to move laterally and when he looks to shift into straight line skating after a turn. But, he isn’t getting all of the speed that he needs. Kyrou really needs to work on speed activation off of turns to ensure that he can move the puck away from pressure at the NHL level. Unfortunately, he doesn’t crossovers consistently when looking to acquire acceleration off of turns and sometimes will go right into a shortened stride extension off of the turn. But, he doesn’t just need to work on using his crossovers more consistently after attempting turns. He also needs to work on leaning on his edges to retain speed that he had before attempting to turn. Without leaning on his edges, he loses the speed that he had before the turn and if he isn’t using crossovers to activate then he truly can’t net much separation after turning. The attacker will be able to adjust his positioning to keep themselves aligned with Kyrou when Kyrou has the puck on his stick. In addition to leaning on his edges, I would also like to see Kyrou cut down on gliding as it only makes it harder for him to develop speed when puck movement changes in direction. Without the activation needed, he will struggle to get himself well-aligned to the attacker.
If Kyrou can work on his skating, I do believe that he can be a bottom four defender at the NHL level. He has the offensive skill-set to be rather productive at the NHL level, but he needs the separation speed to truly have an impact. But, it isn’t just about acquiring the speed to be competitive in the offensive zone, he also needs the speed to counter oppositional puck movement. While the skating might sound concerning, it is addressable. There are plenty of draft eligible prospects that have issues with acceleration and with refinement they make an impact at the NHL level when it’s time to make the jump.
June 25, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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