This is Bogdan Yakimov scoring his first KHL goal earlier this season. Yakimov is playing depth minutes but scoring at a very nice clip, and his contributions for Neftekhimik have him front and center on the list of Oilers prospects progress in 2013-14.
In his Hockey Abstract, Rob Vollman suggests that the KHL-to-NHL ratio (the amount of air we should let out of the KHL stats) is 78%, making it a very strong league (best in the business). Bogdan Yakimov is an 18-year old forward who checks in at 6.05, 202. The Oilers plucked him 83rd overall at the 2013 Entry draft, and so far this year he’s showing extremely well:
- 9gp, 2-3-5 +3 13sog 9:15TOI
That’s a really nice line, Vollman’s number suggests he’d be in the 35 point range as an NHL equivalency (caution: this is VERY early and we shouldn’t be counting our chickens). He’s played some center (68.8% on 27 faceoffs) and both of his goals have come at even strength (EV goals are generally regarded as being more difficult, and we know the numbers aren’t a result of cherry picking PP minutes).
- Yakimov: “I’m extremely happy, because I’ve been waiting to be selected. I was already at the edge of my nerves, so this was a huge relief to be selected by anybody, particularly by the Edmonton Oilers. In Nizhnekamsk, the most favourite team of anybody is Edmonton Oilers, because Nail Yakupov is from the same town.”
Edmonton’s relationship with Russia at the draft was mostly indifferent before Nail Yakupov. In the ten years of drafting before Nail, Edmonton used the following selections on Russians playing in Russia:
- D Ivan Koltsov, 106th overall in 2002
- F Alexander Bumagin, 170th overall in 2006
That’s basically ignoring an enormous part of the hockey world for a decade, which means other teams are getting the benefit of higher value in their selections. There are reasons to avoid Russia, and the Oilers probably felt (and with good reason) that Russian players would be less likely to come to Edmonton based on their own past (see Alexei Mikhnov). Getting Russians signed, sealed and delivered to North America can be a huge pain in the ass (see Belov) and sometimes when they get here you find out they can’t see or skate (see Mikhnov again).
It’s kind of like stepping back in time, prospect-wise. Unless you know the area, have some inside knowledge or connection, then Russia is a vast wasteland.
Since taking Nail Yakupov, the Oilers are being more aggressive in Russia and part of it comes from comments like Yakimov’s above. It seems as though–really for the first time–the Edmonton Oilers have their feet on the ground and are mobile behind Russian lines. It is very likely to have huge benefits in the future, as represented by the Oilers actions this past season regardins Russians in Russia:
- C Bogdan Yakimov 83rd overall in 2013
- L Anton Slepyshev 88th overall in 2013
Slepyshev is struggling early (7, 0-0-0) but has a nice resume and is certainly a solid NHL prospect. Yakupov you know about, Yakimov is making his way in the KHL this season. This isn’t the Russians-to-Detroit pipeline of 15 years ago, but it’s a start.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers should have been active in Russia long ago, there’s no real excuse. Sure teams have been burned, but if a prospect works out and doesn’t want to play for you he still has trade value. During the 10 year period that Edmonton avoided Russia like the plague (leading up to the Yakupov selection), the Oilers passed on some exceptional talent.
This season, there were 8 Russians selected in the NHL draft, and Edmonton chose two of them. One of those players–Bogdan Yakimov–is making some early noise.