May 22 2013 06:24PM
It took absolutely forever for the Edmonton Oilers to embrace Mother Russia at the draft, and we're still wondering if it's a short term detente. Last season, the Oil plucked brilliant winger Nail Yakupov #1 overall, and incredibly, may have an opportunity to draft another elite talent from the same part of the world this summer.
In historic terms, two Russians drafted by the Oilers in the first round? in successive seasons? Impossible. And yet, it could happen a month from now.
Since 1979, Edmonton has draft 346 players. Of that group, the following were drafted out of Russia or have direct ties to Russian hockey:
- L Igor Vyazmikin, 252nd overall in 1987
- D Vladimir Zubkov, 208nd overall in 1988
- C Anatoli Semenov, 120th overall in 1989
- C Sergei Yashin, 141st overall in 1989
- G Evgeny Belosheiken, 232nd overall in 1991
- L Alexander Kerch, 60th overall in 1993
- F Oleg Maltsev, 241st overall in 1993
- D Ilya Byakin, 267th overall in 1993
- R Dimitrius Sulba, 162nd in 1994
- D Sergei Yerkovich, 68th overall in 1997
- G Alex Fomitchev, 231st overall in 1997
- L Oleg Smirnov, 144th overall in 1998
- R Maxim Spiridonov, 241st overall in 1998
- D Alexei Semenov, 36th overall in 1999
- L Alexei Mikhnov, 17th overall in 2000
- D Alexander Ljubimov, 83rd overall in 2000
- F Evgeny Muratov, 274th overall in 2000
- D Ivan Koltsov, 106th overall in 2002
- F Mikhail Youkov, 72nd overall in 2003
- D Roman Tesliuk, 44th overall in 2004
- L Slava Trukhno, 120th overall in 2005
- F Alex Bumagin, 170th overall in 2006
- R Nail Yakupov, 1st overall in 2012
- L Daniil Zharkov, 91st overall in 2012
24 Russians out of 346 draft selections. About 7%. If we excluded the Russian kids (like Yakupov and Zharkov) who played their junior in Canada, the 24 Russians are now reduced to 16, or 4.6%. Minute.
Maybe the Russian Yakupov can change all that.
RUSSIA--WOMEN WITH HATS!
It might get some getting used to--poor old Rod Phillips got all the Finnish names, maybe Jack Michaels will get all the Russian ones--but today's news that Valeri Nichushkin will forego his KHL contract and is willing to sign with his drafting team is a huge item. Jonathan Willis put it very well this morning:
Willis: Now, not only is it more likely that the Oilers still have the option of picking Monahan when pick number seven rolls around, but if Nichushkin somehow does slide he should be more attractive both to them (long-term, a 6’4” winger with high-end talent certainly could be a fit on the Oilers’ depth chart) and to other teams if they decide to trade the pick down as general manager Craig MacTavish has suggested.
I think today's news is huge. The Oilers were staring at a Monahan v. Zadorov decision--and that was best case scenario. If we assume the draft goes like this:
- Colorado: Seth Jones
- Florida: Nathan Mackinnon
- Tampa Bay: Jonathan Drouin
- Nashville: Sasha Barkov
- Carolina: Elias Lindholm
- Calgary: Sean Monahan
The Oilers can either draft Nichushkin or trade down/the pick and get much better value. Nichushkin's offensive numbers aren't killer, but a look at his KHL player card reveals a time-on-ice total that suggests he was playing depth minutes:
The numbers tell the story. The young man played 8 minutes a night during the regular season, scoring 4 goals in 18 games. Moved up the depth chart for the playoffs, and he played 12.5 minutes a night and scored 6 goals in 25 games. Buddy averaged 10 minutes a night in basically half a season and scored 10 goals in a very good Russian major league.
Oh. And he's 18, 6.03, 201.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The reports on Nichushkin's freedom are manna from heaven for the Edmonton Oilers. Absolutely music! The Oilers must make sure it's true, and then act accordingly.
Can Edmonton ever become hockey's Moscow west? One thing: we don't have to explain the weather!