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.


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:

  1. Colorado: Seth Jones
  2. Florida: Nathan Mackinnon
  3. Tampa Bay: Jonathan Drouin
  4. Nashville: Sasha Barkov
  5. Carolina: Elias Lindholm
  6. 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.


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!

  • oilabroad

    I dont see the russian still on the board, I think Carolina take him, Calgary will take the big center (Monahan) and we get Lindholm… regardless, this is good news for the Oil, I thought we might just miss out on that top tier. Would love to see the oil throw in Gags to trade up to Barkov

  • paul wodehouse

    …thought this team needed help @ CENTRE ! ! !

    There are only two centres on the top ten list…we ain’t gettin’ MacKinnon soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    do what it takes to get Monohan !

    • OilLeak

      Yes, forget every other position. We need serious help at center. Nothing less will do. We have enough wingers for now. If we get to our pick and Nicushkin is all that is left, I suggest we trade down and take Horvath. We can never move ahead as a team without proper strength down the middle. And you just can trade for good centers so let’s draft them.

      • paul wodehouse

        …K i’m lookin’ at the top ten prospects and Lindholm’s NOT listed B … so upon further review> i was gawking at the north american skaters list …WTF …why do they do that ?

        who does Lindholm replace on the north american skaters list and where does he come in … BUT if I had the chance to take the Monohan kid over a Swede…guess who i’m takin’? Monahan i tell u MONAHAN!!!

        • Most people seem to rank him above Monahan and put him about the 6th spot. He is supposedly more talented but is smaller than Monahan. I havent seen more than highlights for either so im not really qualified to say much more than seems to be the consensus.

          Seems like:

          1. Jones
          2. MacKinnon
          3. Drouin
          4. Barkov
          5. Nikuschkin
          6. Lindhom
          7. Monahan.

          Personally, I dont see the big deal really. Calgary is going to pick a junior high school kid from texas and we’ll have our pick of Monahan or Lindholm.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      ….thought this team needed help @ CENTER!!!

      There are only two centers on the top ten list….we ain’t gettin’ MacKinnon.

      do what it takes to get Barkov !

      Fixed that for you sir.

  • Truth

    I think the Oilers sit in a good position. Absolute best case – Barkov. Worst case – Monahan (I go Nichushkin, Lindholm, Monahan).

    Buffalo is in a tough spot picking 8th, IMO. Choice would be between Nurse, Ristolainen, Shinkaruk, Zadorov, plus a lot more at this spot.

    Did anyone notice Zadorov is the 22nd ranked NA skater by Central Scouting? That would be a concern drafting him at 7 overall.

    • John Chambers

      Really Zadorov’s CS ranking is indicative of what a deep draft this is.

      Trading down and still selecting Ristolainen, Zadorov, or my personnal choice – Tony Mantha – would make for a successful draft.

      Have a look at the 2003 draft:

      You almost couldn’t go wrong in the first round, unless you were the Blue Jackets or Oilers. Adding a bona fide NHL defenseman and still selecting prior to #20 is a sound strategy, IMO.

  • OilLeak

    Lowetide do the Oilers go out and sign Marty Reasoner for 4 th line center duties. Marty 3.0. can still kill penalties and win faceoffs. He is a UFA. MacT and him have good history. I would love to have him and Horcoff as our 3/4 centers. Good for both zones.We all saw what happened when Horcoff went down last season. Need a reliable 4th line center and he is that. Lander is not ready for the show. RK needs a couple of Veteran players of that ilk he an rely on . Add Mike Brown and Ryan Smyth and your 4th line does not look overmatched.

  • paul wodehouse

    Do we take Drouin at number 7 ? He’s slipping in rankings during Memorial Cup . Reminds me of the year Kane went first , and we ended up with Gagner . I wonder if Bjorkstrand might be a good target for round 2 ?

  • paul wodehouse

    Beaker you said “…Calgary is going to pick a junior high school kid from texas…”

    did you forget the ~ ~ designation?

    they have nothing of value to get jones so…

    cowtown pix right before we do [barring switch-a-roos] and so no matter what… we will somehow covet their pick but surely if they get the Swede and we get Monahan we will certainly be treated to these two centres facing off against one another one day…

    I would also hope that MacT sends Monohan directly to OKC for at least ONE FULL YEAR…

    no rushing him and besides we won’t contend for at least two more years … i think

      • paul wodehouse

        …thanks KM…i forgot about this nasty rule with age in the (hockey developmental league)…so back to junior where he learns little…that rule should exclude any top ten picks so as they can play with grownups like other players who are what…20

        or just throw him into the deep end like this organization usually does…then gets crucified by way too many people…89

        headline reads


    • Quicksilver ballet

      Should be able to get it done with support type players. A Hemsky, and the 7th would be a good starting point. Heck, give them two players off the Oilers up for grabs list.

  • paul wodehouse

    Q…where will the Oil pick in the draft for these next few years after this year…even if it’s middle of the pack and getting less up the list would our 4 first round picks be ok for nashville to give up one of their Dmen …

    • Quicksilver ballet

      The Oilers 4 firsts you speak of would certainly be more desireable to David Poile, compared to where the Flyers 4 firsts would have been with #6 in their lineup.

      Make that deal asap, then replace what’s left of Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner, Belanger and Smyth, with Hartnell, Ott, Clarkson and Barkov/Weiss. Having Peckham move up to forward would help as well.

      Give Dave Tippet this roster and he’ll get us out of the bottom half the league for the foreseeable future.

  • book¡e

    In 2012, 3.1% of NHL Players are Russian. Therefore you are correct that the Oilers are biased regarding Russians. They clearly select Russians disproportionatly to individuals of other Nationalities. They select Russians at nearly double the rate that one would expect given the very small percentage of Russians in the NHL.

    So, the question is “Why do the Oilers favour Russians so much?”

  • book¡e

    Also, there is nothing wrong with considering the likelyhood of a player playing in the NHL when considering who to draft. This is not racism or any other kind of bias, it is logical to consider that some players may decide to play in another League. Russians are more likely to get generous offers to play in Russia than non-Russians. Considering this is reasonable.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      He gets plenty of love here. Where have you been?

      If the Oilers don’t do anything stupid, he may be the most eligible selection left in that 7 slot. Ideally, the Oilers need to move up for a shot at a second line center in Barkov. No denying there’s holes at the center ice position and on the blueline. Nurse may take a year or two, but it’s certainly better than moving down to select an even iffier prospect.