November 20 2013 04:37PM
At the 2013 Entry draft (and for the second time this century) the Edmonton Oilers spent two of their first four selections on Russian kids playing in Russia. Stu MacGregor (and Oiler fans) are hoping it works out better the second time.
THE 2000 ENTRY DRAFT
At the 2000 draft, Edmonton spent their first round selection on big winger Alexei Mikhnov. The 6.05 winger had skating issues and went back to Russia (where he's enjoyed a fine career in the Super League and now the KHL). At 31, he appears to be slowing, but for our purposes a 1st round selection who plays in 2 NHL games is the definition of draft bust.
At least he played in the NHL. Later in that 2000 entry draft, the Oilers selected Alexander Ljubimov, who played exactly one season in North America (with the wonderfully named Odessa Jackalopes of the CHL) before returning to Russia.
17th overall and 83rd overall, 2 NHL games. That's not good. The Oilers have never traditionally made Russia a priority, but this past draft (with Nail Yakupov in the fold) the club took two more Russians in the same draft.
THE 2013 ENTRY DRAFT
The Oilers took big center Bogdan Yakimov and skill winger Anton Slepyshev in the third round of this season's draft, the first Russians taken that high since Mikhnov and Ljubimov.
It's likely going to be a couple of years before we see these players (KHL contracts), but there's definitely an interest in the Oilers, and at least some of the credit has to do with Yakupov (he's opening doors to an area where Edmonton has had little or no success).
So far this season, both men have had some success followed by long periods of inactivity/crickets in the boxcars:
- Bogdan Yakimov 26, 5-5-10 +2 36sog 9:44TOI 60% faceoffs
- Anton Slepyshev 17, 2-1-3 +2 19sog 9:57TOI
Yakimov is a big center (6.05, 202) and Slepyshev a fleet (6.02, 187) winger. Rob Vollman's NHL equivalencies put the KHL numbers in perspective:
- Yakimov 82, 12-13-25 (the actual NHLE is 24.6/82games)
- Slepyshev 82, 7-4-11 (the actual NHLE is 11/29/82games)
These are early days, and the TOI total probably tells us that these are depth minutes being played by both prospects. However, Yakimov is tracking nicely so far—those are solid numbers for a 19-year old center—and Oiler fans should be encouraged by his showing this season.
A QUICK NOTE
Teemu Hartikainen is having a nice season in the KHL (27, 9-10-19 -1) and Daniil Zharkov (26, 3-0-3 E) is also seeing some playing time over there. Hartikainen's NHLE run through Vollman gives him 82, 22-23-45, and that's a very nice number. I wonder if the Oilers consider bringing him back next season (Harski's KHL deal is for two seasons but there's usually an opt out in the contract).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There are no sure things from the 2013 draft, but this Yakimov kid is tracking well. He's a center, he's 6.05 and he can post offense. There is no doubt the Oilers have noticed his progress. We wait.