For the first time in his professional career, Vegas Golden Knights winger Valentin Zykov looked as though he was primed to spend an entire season with the big club. But seven games into the campaign, Zykov’s opportunity to prove himself as a full-timer in the NHL has been derailed.
On Thursday, the NHL announced the 24-year-old has been suspended 20 games, without pay, for violating the NHL and NHLPA’s Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Per the league release, Zykov’s “suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment” under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
In the wake of the league’s announcement, the Golden Knights released a statement regarding Zykov’s suspension, supporting and respecting the NHL’s decision.
“We were notified by the NHL and NHLPA that Valentin has violated the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program,” the Golden Knights said. “We monitor the nutrition, supplement intake, and overall diet of our athletes on a continual basis throughout our entire season. Valentin knowingly used a banned substance without the consent, recommendation or knowledge of our team.”
The last sentence, in particular, is worth noting, especially when contrasted with the Golden Knights’ response to the 20-game PED-related suspension that was handed to defenseman Nate Schmidt ahead of the 2018-19 campaign. At the time of Schmidt’s suspension, the Golden Knights stated that they “strongly” disagreed with the 20-game ban, adding that they “firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional.” In the September 2018 statement, the organization also stated that they believed it was “clear Nate was not able to reasonably ascertain how the substance entered his body.”
As for Zykov, who released a statement through the NHLPA, he said he will accept the suspension, but stated he hasn't "been able to discover how I tested positive." He added that he wants to "apologize to my family, my teammates, and the Golden Knights organization and fans. I will work hard during my suspension to ensure that I put myself in the best possible position to contribute to my team when my suspension is over.”
As a result of the suspension, Zykov will not be eligible to return to action until Nov. 29, when the Golden Knights host the Arizona Coyotes.
Drafted 37th overall in 2013 by the Los Angeles Kings, Zykov was placed on waivers by the Edmonton Oilers and claimed by Vegas in December 2018. He has two assists in seven games this season and was averaging 11:44 per contest. Zykov has skated in 17 games with the Golden Knights over the past two seasons and has six goals and 15 points in 47 career NHL games. In addition, he has 58 goals and 104 points in 180 career AHL outings.
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