It is hard to find a lot of information on the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers, Anton Belov, but this video shows he knows how to score.
Belov turns 27 in July, stands 6’4" and weighs 215 pounds. He’s played in Russia his entire life. He played his first four years of pro hockey with CSKA Moscow, and he’s spent the past five seasons playing for Omsk Avangard in the KHL. He’s coming off his best offensive season, 9 goals and 26 points in 46 games, but prior to that he’d never scored more than 4 goals or 14 points.
I tracked down Dmirty Chesnokov, a Russian reporter who covers the NHL and KHL to get a quick scouting report on Belov.
Gregor: Give me your best scouting report on Anton Belov.
Chesnokov: If I have to describe him in one sentence, I’d say that the past season, and considering it was a lockout season so there were a lot of NHL players in the KHL, he was probably, unofficially the best defenceman in the KHL. This is the best way to describe him. He was one of the brighter spots on the Russian national team at the World Championships. Everybody knows the … performance that team had, but he was one of the players who stood out. The amount of improvement he has shown the past few years along with his e maturity, I think Edmonton has got a great, great player.
Brownlee: His calling card is moving the puck. How about his defensive play though?
Chesnokov: Yes, this is one of those things that coming out of the KHL, and playing on the bigger ice that is more of the mind set of the Russian defenceman, they’re not really shut down guys. They would venture all over the ice. When you’re talking about young guys like Orlov, Belov or Marchenko that Detroit signed today, yes they are more into puck moving.
They could be a liability in the defensive end, however just like Markov when he came and joined the Habs a couple years ago; he was also one of those guys who wasn’t a shut down guy. Yet, he learned to play a real physical, shut down game in Montreal. I think Belov, especially at twenty-six; he’s old enough to understand what the responsibilities are and what the coaching staff is expecting of him. It’s not about him. It’s not about his offensive abilities. It’s about being a shut down guy and playing defence and playing that smart game. I think he’s smart enough to do that.
*This is Belov in a brief scrap with Alexei Yashin.*
Gregor: Is he a highly competitive guy, who is going to show up and every night? Does he have that component to his game?
Chesnokov: I think so. He came from an organization, where he learned from guys like Jaromir Jagr. He had the competitive nature around him. But at the same time, it’s still something new. He needs to go through camp. He needs to understand what it’s like to play in North America. It’s very different- the approach, the physical play, because of the smaller ice. But again, I’m fairly confident that he can certainly do that, especially coming to the NHL at such an age, twenty-six, not an eighteen year old kid. So he knows what he needs to do, he’s got the frame, he’s got the body to do it.
Brownlee: I’m curious how this developed and if you could shed some light on it. Even a day or so ago, you and some other people seemed to think he was going to end up in Pittsburgh. How did the Edmonton Oilers, seven years out of the playoffs, land a prospect like this?
Chesnokov: Yes, this is something sort of connecting the dots because the World Championships just ended recently. Somebody who was there said, “Hey did you know MacTavish was there and he was asking a lot of questions about Belov?” Until today, it’s not that I forgot, I remembered it yesterday or something in back of mind that Belov announced he would indeed terminate his KHL contract because he was going to sign in the NHL.
At the same time, his agent is the same agent as Malkin and usually agents tend to work with the same team. Then there was interest from about half a dozen clubs, and because he was undrafted he could pick where he wanted to go.I think the personal visit by the GM of the Oilers in Scandinavia, in Finland and Sweden, sealed the deal for him. By the looks of it, he is really, really excited about coming to the NHL.
He may see it as the last chance because he had a gentleman’s agreement with Omsk, saying that if he gets an offer from the NHL that they will agree to let him go. That is what happened. They wished him well today after the signing. I think it showed him confidence when the team GM was actually there, scouting him in person, and maybe talking to him, talking to media, and other people around the Russian team about him. So he could have seen it as probably the last chance to be in his prime, to join an NHL team that has so much potential.
- Belov won’t solve all of the woes of the Oilers blueline, but if can move the puck as well as they say then he’s an upgrade. Right now he’s their best left-shot puck moving D-man, ahead of Nick Schultz and Ladislav Smid. If he is as good as Chesnokov believes, top defender in KHL last season, then he could be a good 2nd pairing defender for the Oilers. With Ryan Whitney not returning there is an open spot on the powerplay for a left shotting D-man, so Belov could see some PP time.
- TIme will tell if this was good depth move, but based on the UFA market, and Belov’s price tag, one-year entry level deal, this is a good gamble.
- I had the June 4th as the date someone would write an article stating Linus Omark could/should return to the Oilers. It happened yesterday when Willis penned this at Cult of Hockey. Eventually someone would bring it up, and I agree that Omark has NHL-level skill, I just don’t see why the Oilers would bring him back. They don’t need another small, skilled forward who isn’t great defensively. The only way I see him back in Edmonton is if the Oilers trade away one or two of their skilled forwards. I suspect the Oilers will trade his rights instead of re-signing him.
- The four remaining teams all have a "Win one for the Gipper" player on their roster. Jarome Iginla in Pittsburgh, Robyn Regehr in LA, Wade Redden in Boston and Michal Handzus in Chicago. Regehr has played 944 regular season games and 54 in the playoffs. Handzus had 944 and 86, Redden is at 1023 and 106 while Iginla’s played the most, 1232 and 65. I don’t buy that players want to win more for Iginla than they would for themselves, but I’m sure we will read about that angle before the Cup Finals start. If I had to pick one of those four to cheer for, I’d likely root for Redden.
- The Kings have 21 players who’ve won a Cup. The Bruins have 18, the Penguins 10 and Chicago has 9. If experience means that much, I guess the Kings have the advantage, but I don’t see them winning. I’d love to see a Hawks/Pens final.