What does Bogdan Yakimov need to do to make the Edmonton Oilers?

Yakimov, Bogdan

Between the Penticton Young Stars tournament and the early results of the preseason, Edmonton fans have been treated to some surprisingly good performances from players in Oilers sweaters.

Among the best of those performances has been that of Bogdan Yakimov. The 6’5”, 232 pound Russian hasn’t looked like a player struggling to adapt to North America, and between his massive size and his ability with and without the puck he’s managed to get some fans thinking about the possibility of him playing NHL minutes in 2014-15.

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It’s certainly possible he makes the jump later in the year, but it is exceedingly unlikely that he makes the team out of camp and for good reason.

The Cautionary Tale


The problem with giving a player a job based on preseason merit is that it can often represent the triumph of the small picture over the larger picture. We’ve talked previously about how to fit training camp performance into the career information we already have of a player, but with a prospect there are additional factors to consider.

In Edmonton, Anton Lander is the shorthand for this. In the fall of 2011 he was the best of the Oilers centre options for their fourth line job. A struggling Gilbert Brule played his way off the team and other prospects (Chris VandeVelde, Ryan O’Marra) were outshined by the kid from Sweden. Lander made the team, mostly playing on a little-used fourth line between Lennart Petrell and Ben Eager and on the penalty kill.

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After playing 56 major league games, Lander was sent to the minors, where it took him most of two seasons to find the offensive game that he’d shown in Sweden and then in training camp. We can’t definitively know that Edmonton’s decision to elevate him wrecked his development, but what we do know is that instead of playing in all situations down on the farm and polishing all areas of his game he got cast as a dump-and-chase fourth-liner and he’s looked like exactly that in every trip he’s made to the NHL since.

My belief is that player and organization alike would have been best served by sending the first-year North American to the AHL to play in all situations and then to have promoted him to the majors for the first time once he’d established good, balanced habits.


While we tend to think about training camp as being about the NHL team, it’s also about the farm club. Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson and his staff are in town watching all these performances; in some of the games they’re even the guys behind the bench. If Yakimov does go down to the minors he’s going to come in as a player who has already proven his offensive bona fides in high-level hockey, which means he’s probably going to get major minutes out of the gate. Assuming that Lander sticks with the Oilers this year he might even be the Barons’ first line centre.

That means major even-strength minutes. It probably means time with the man advantage on a very good Barons’ power play unit. Nelson used the penalty kill as a teaching tool for some players – notably Tyler Pitlick – last year, and Yakimov might even get minutes in those situations.

There should be very little doubt that from a development standpoint the experience would be excellent for Yakimov: he’d get to be a workhorse and a difference-maker and he’d have a lot more latitude to make some mistakes while learning on the job than he would get in the majors.

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It also makes sense from a team perspective. The Oilers are already running two guys with less than 50 games of NHL experience at centre, and they’re behind a first line centre (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) who has yet to prove that he can excel in that extremely demanding role for a full NHL campaign. One of those inexperienced centres (Mark Arcobello) has paid his dues and looked promising in the majors and will be extremely difficult to cut. The other guy is a third overall pick who is lost to the team for the entire season if he gets sent down out of camp. The Oilers could get around the roster crunch by bumping Arcobello to the Gordon line and going with Draisaitl-Yakimov at centre, but that’s a terrifying depth chart.

Yakimov is still just 19 years old. He’s never played in North America. The choice isn’t between keeping him or sending him off to the KHL; it’s between keeping him and sending him to a development team where he’ll be one of the top priorities of a very good coach who answers to Edmonton. If Yakimov shows he’s simply too good for the minors, the Oilers can make the decision to recall him at any time.

This isn’t a hard choice. As unfair as it may sound, even if Yakimov plays as well as he has to date the best thing for both the player and team is almost certainly that he plays in Oklahoma City.


  • ComeAtMeDog

    So if we shouldnt set the bar too high for Yakimov why are we setting it so high for Draisaitl?

    Instead of having a guy whos played a year of pro against men, is a year olde, is lighting up preseason, and is bigger. We are going to bring in a guy who is younger less seasoned and is doing just OK in preseason?

    Ass backwards!!

    • Anton CP

      I guess that’s Euro-bias? Yes Draisaitl is German but I’m talking about peoples always have doubts from player came aboard instead of developed in North America.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Looking forward to seeing Perron, Pouliot, Purcell in action this year…

    If the top line back checks like they have been in the preseason look out…

    Nikitin and Fayne pairing, Marincin bigger and stronger…

    Scrivens Fasth combo battling for the #1.

  • nuge2drai

    Just finished watching Flame and Canuck game . Hope S.Benett makes the Flames this year , as he was the star of the game . Going to be exciting watching him play . Hope Draisaitl will show as well one of these games .

  • 15w40

    So what’s the matter with keeping both Draisaitl and Yakimov for the so called 9 game trial. Play them on opposite nights. I know that Yakimov is not subject to this 9 game window but at least they could both play and keep the one that “wins” the job. Depending on who it is the other either goes back to OKC or PA. Right now I don’t think it should be between Arcobello & Yakimov. The same argument about rushing Yakimov could be applied to Draisaitl.

    • 15w40

      That’s a good idea. They wouldn’t even have to play the full 9 games and they won’t take up two roster spots. I like this idea. Why not see how they do. With the centres they have this year they aren’t making the playoffs anyways.

      ** c’mon macT, get a legite NHL center!

  • 15w40

    With that lineup up the middle, the Oilers would have trouble making the playoffs in a 5th division made up of expansion clubs, never mind the WhateverThey’reCallingTheSmytheTheseDays.

  • 15w40

    Keep both Drasaitl and Yakimov for 9 game trial.Whoever wins the job stays. Let it be a meritocracy. Why base prospect priority on draft position or team of origin. Yakimov is clearly the better performing player at present with the added bonus of being more mature and having played a season in a man’s league (KHL) already.

  • 15w40

    The perception is that if the Oilers go with RNH-Arco-Lander and Gordon that we’ll be bottom feeders once again is the driving force behind this debate.

    Who believes that the above statement is not true?

    Trepidation and angst are the keys words I would apply to the above scenario.

    Until Arco and Lander prove otherwise their ascension to the NHL seems more likely than not.

    With McDavid and Eichel awaiting this draft year who here does not believe that another bottom 8 placement is not the most likely scenario come spring?

    The girders are being erected and the time will come for this team to perform at a level we have not seen for 2 decades. Until then we’ll see the learning process continue at all levels of this organization.

    I’ll grit my teeth and smile but in the end Hall etal still are 2-3 years away from being a competitive team equal to the big boys in the WC.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I haven’t had a chance to see the games so far,but I’ve heard more about Yak2 than I have Arco and Lander combined.

    What do the Oilers have to lose really other than one of Lander or Arcobello to waivers. Other than games played in the NHL, which isn’t all that much, are they really that much better than Bogdan?

    Point is if Yakimov out plays both lander and Arcobello, play him. Never know, he might actually be better suited for the WC.

  • oilerjed

    Nothing in the article really lays out a solid reason for Yak2.0 to be sent down and Drais to make it.
    Seems hypocritical to say that we will ruin Yakimov by keeping him up and yet Draisaitl will be ruined if we send him down and he heads off to Sweden. Is keeping Drais up when he not ready only going to do the same harm that it would to Yakimov?

  • oilerjed

    Now how about a differnet angle.
    If up and coming players are not ready for the nhl for another 2-3 years, what does this mean for our “core”? Do we really expect Hall Ebs and Nuge to continue to grow in a losing environment? That be honest, 10-15 more points is improvement but it is also another year out of the playoffs and in the end that is a loss. At what point does it become critical that these guys gain some experience where it matters most, the playoffs. They are to be the cornerstone of our championship run are they not? Or has this management already moved on from this idea and the “core” is now the reargaurd of the rebuild’s actual completion?
    What is the actual window for our core to win the cup? 2017/18-2021/22?

  • Never give up hope!!

    I agree with some of your points but disagree with others. I feel that Yak is ten times the prospect Lander was at this stage. I feel like the Oilers will get the best value from this situation by sending Leon back for one more year to develop and take the guy who’s played against men for a year already. Just my opinion, take it or leave it.

  • Tikkanese

    Let’s not get too excited over the prospects just yet. The rosters are still half full of junior eligible players.

    Remember Joensuu looked like the next Cam Neely during last preseason and look how that turned out.