Another Year for Anton Belov?

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One of the more difficult players to get a read on this season is Anton Belov. In his first year in North America, the Russian rearguard offered an intriguing mix of ability and error. Should the Edmonton Oilers give him another season to find his way?

By Eye

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In a lot of ways, Belov is the classic puck-moving European defenceman, but with a twist: instead of being small and fast he’s big and slow.

Belov’s strengths are many. He’s relatively poised with the puck, with an ability to make the first pass out of the zone, even under pressure (something he improved on over the course of the year). He has a heavy shot, albeit one that wasn’t used frequently enough. In the defensive zone, he has both the frame (6’4”) and the strength (218 pounds) to hold the front of the net. Versatility is also an asset, as Belov was the only Oilers defenceman who seamlessly made the transition from left side to right side and back again.

There are some weaknesses in the mix, too. The most troubling is Belov’s skating; he has heavy feet and at times he can be exposed by speed. The other issue is that at times he loses one-on-one battles it looks like he should win. Some of that’s a speed issue, some of it’s a meanness issue, but at times it looked like Belov just wasn’t prepared for the kind of pressure he was put under by opposition forwards. In a way, that might be a good sign; the game in the KHL is much more passive and a lot of that could potentially clear up now that he has a season of NHL hockey under his belt.

By Number

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Anton Belov played regularly with four different partners: Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz, Nick Schultz and Philip Larsen. If we define “regularly” as at least 100 minutes, it’s interesting to compare the performance of those players with Belov to their performance with other partners.

The table which follows shows the Corsi percentage for the Oilers with each of the following pairings on the ice:

Regular Partner  Jeff Petry  Justin Schultz  Nick Schultz 
Anton Belov 58.4 49.0 43.4
Martin Marincin 48.1  
Oscar Klefbom 44.8
Andrew Ference 45.1 42.1 41.4
Nick Schultz 37.1 38.4
Justin Schultz 38.4
Jeff Petry 37.1

(Philip Larsen was not included, as the only defence partner he spent more than 100 minutes with was Belov and so there was no other regular to contrast with. They were an extremely ineffective pairing, with a total on-ice Corsi rating of 34.7 percent).

The interesting thing here is that the three players who spent significant time with Belov and significant time with others all saw better on-ice shot rates with Belov than they did without him. Some of that may be related to role, but it’s hard to escape the idea that a lot of it has to do with Belov’s utility as a player.

My View

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The price point matters, but the Oilers could do much worse than Belov as a No. 6/7 option.

His versatility makes him fantastic for the No. 7 role because he can slide in anywhere without disrupting other pairings. He’s big enough to play with a small puck-mover, he’s a good enough puck-mover to survive with a player whose primary abilities lie elsewhere, and he can play the left or the right side. He’s also a significantly better player than other options Edmonton is likely to deploy in this role.

Additionally, there’s still some upside there. One of the Oilers’ (many) gaffes in recent years was the departure of Jan Hejda, who looked uneven in his first season in North America at around the same age Belov is now; he blossomed when he got a chance in Columbus and became a legitimate top-four shutdown defender.

On the right contract, the Oilers should be very interested in bringing Belov back.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • WHH

    No I don’t sign him. We have enough young defensemen who are trying to find their way. As others have said we need two real NHL defensemen to help the kids out.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    We’ve all seen what Larsen can do for this team this past season. He’s the keeper out of this grey area bunch. Belov, Grebeshkov, Fraser all out. Petry will have surprising trade value inside of 12 months. Can’t help but see a fit for Jeff in Philadelphia. Could Gags (half salary retained) and Petry net the Oilers Couturier before the end of next season?

    It’s difficult to see what these players are capable of, during this fire drill type environment in Edmonton.

      • Admiral Ackbar

        The only way Larsen stays is if he plays forward.
        I would take Larsen over Lander though.

        IF only Blov played a gritty tough game back there it would make for a better fit. Then you dont need Fraser.

        But I guess if its not in your DNA to be tough, all the tigers milk in the world wont help. Same message goes to Petry, would like to see him drive some guys through the boards.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Larsens only issue is he’s 3 yrs too early coming to a team like this. On a competitive team he’s very much a Greg Hawgood type of player. A great addition if the backbone of your blueline is already in place. That isn’t the case here in Edmonton, so I can see why he’s being sold short.

        I’d wager The Dallas Stars would love to have this kid back, to help as they go up against the Ducks this coming week. A plug and play piece when they have the man advantage.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        It all depends who’s in the position of need. If it’s Holmgren coming to MacTavish to address a need, then the price often seems more affordable.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I agree, Belov deserves another 1 year contract. I’d sign him for sure. At his price range, who else on the UFA market is notably better with upside?

  • The Soup Fascist

    So Big body but gets beat physically on the boards and around the net. Speed issues in other words he is just plain slow. Has the ability to make a good first pass under pressure, yet frequently under pressure made a bad pass. Sometimes lacked intensity as he gets beat to and for the puck…. Wow. Why would we want to keep him around again? As a 6-7.. sure I guess he’s just slightly better then Fraser.

    BUT MacT has to pick up at MINIMUM 1 2nd pairing D man. Should be a 1st. But 1 definitive experienced top 4 D. So that gives us

    (NEW D man)/Petry
    Marincin/Shultz
    Ference/Kelfbom

    #7 Belov

    I suppose why not. But only if thats where he slots.

  • vetinari

    Depends on money, and certainly no more than a one year contract. I’d suggest Fraser/Larson type of money at between $1M to $1.25M for a one year contract.

  • Bucknuck

    Looking at that Corsi surprised me. Belov kind of struck me as a guy that could be just great… but when exactly? I’m torn.

    If the price point is right, I don’t think it would be wise to say goodbye to a 6′ 4″ D-man with a big shot and good underlying statistics. another one year contract sounds about right.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I think Belov is an upgrade over Larsen and Fraser, as well.

    Assuming the Oilers can add a legitimate 1st pairing “D” (hardly a slam dunk) your top six could be:

    New Guy(getting picky, hopefully a righty),
    Petry,
    Schultz,
    Ference and
    two of (Marincin,Klefbom or Nurse)

    Belov makes a decent #7. Mostly because he can play either side and adds some size. With all due respect I don’t think you want one of the kids sitting in the pressbox. Send them to the minors (Marincin or Klefbom) or Junior (Nurse). Unless they can pickup a good known quantity on the bottom pairing (a Matt Greene type), I think Belov is the keeper. Larsen is a great skater but a mess in his own zone and Fraser is a tough, game guy but is S-L-O-W. Glacially slow.

    I don’t think this team can afford to have 3 young’ns playing D next year plus a defensively suspect young pro in Schultz. If MacT fails to find a legitimate top pair guy it is deja vu all over again.

    If they somehow manage to get Ekblad, well that throws another wrench into the works. I think you have no choice but to trade one of the young D to reduce the logjam. Which one(s) – that is the question.

    With Ekblad you would have four pups knocking on the door, NOT counting Gernat, Musil and Simpson (should he sign). That is too many guys essentially the same age in playing the same position, IMO. At some point you lose them and their value decreases as they stagnate in the minors.

    That is a lot of “potential” talent stockpiled in one position AND a luxury that cannot be afforded with so many holes throughout the current sad sack roster.

    • The Soup Fascist

      We Need BIG, VERY TOUGH MARK FRASER as our 6-7D Man next year!!! Look at the SYSTEMATIC BEAT DOWN he put on HUGE PATRICK MAROON (another guy who should be an Oiler)!!!!

      • The Soup Fascist

        I don’t dislike the guy but he is a turnstile, Wonger.

        SYSTEMATIC BEAT DOWN ??

        Wonger, you aren’t really New Age Sys’s pugilistic alter ego ….. are you???

        Your posts are much too brief and somewhat entertaining, which does not fit the profile, however the RANDOM CAPS and now use of the word “systematic” has an eerie familiarity to it.

        Hmmmm.

    • nuge2drai

      I think Marincin has earned a shot at a spot on the team next year. I’d still send Nurse and Klefbom back down until they force MacT’s hand. If Ekblad is selected and expected to play in the NHL next season then I wouldn’t be surprise to see Petry and Gagner packaged with a pick for either a true top pairing Dman or a really good Center. Likely a Center.

      I honestly think Edm should select Leon Draisaitl. Then send Gagner and Petry and a first rounder for a true top pairing Dman. I think that would be a better move as I think Leon could play just as good as Gagner but maybe my hopes are too high.

      Either one of these scenerio’s would still require MacT to find one more defenseman preferably a top 4. Having Ference and Marincin as a third pairing would be preferable.

      • The Soup Fascist

        I agree. The rather long winded point I was trying to make was that if Ekblad is still around, unless the “braintrust” honestly believe Ekblad is the second coming of Shea Weber, they should take a center. Preferably a center with some size. Draisaitl fits the bill.

        If he is gone I am honestly torn between Bennett and Reinhart. I think Reinhart has more vision and will put up better numbers but he is an RNH clone.

        Bennett is said to have more sandpaper and two way ability (I have not seen him play) and that is something that is needed despite the fact he is not a monster.

        BPA sounds great in principle, but when you have a top six of almost exclusively smallish non-physical players it is difficult to introduce another one. If the Oilers pick third they have a decision to make. If they pick forth they take the guy that is left. There is separation between the top four and the next grouping, IMO.

        • The Soup Fascist

          If Ekblad and Draisaitl are gone when the Oil pick I think they seriously need to consider trading down. Even if they can turn that pick into a lower 1st and a mid 2nd that would be worth it as they need specific types of players to complete this team.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Respectfully, I could not disagree more. The last thing this organization needs is more “maybes”.

            This scouting staff has not shown me they are ahead of the curve in identifying talent out of the top tier. Their record for later 1st round picks (granted they have not had a ton of those lately) and 2nd rounders on has been, to be kind, spotty.

            The one guy who was a value pick was Eberle, but he basically lived next door to the late great Lorne Davis of Regina, who raved to the Oilers about the kid, prior to his passing.

            If they are not sold on Reinhart or Bennett then trade the pick, but package it up for a known quantity 2C or 1D. No more darts for the dartboard, please.

          • Misinterpretation, essentially what I meant was that I would rather trade the pick for two other picks rather than draft a player type the team already has loads of. I do agree that it would be better to work out a trade bringing a proven player back but at the draft they my not have the time to make a deal like that. However you could still package those picks, especially if they are 2015 picks, for a player later in the draft or during the off season. This type of move buys them time to make something happen.

  • Rob...

    Even Omark was stronger along the boards than Belov. Until the Oilers win more puck battles than they lose along the boards we will continue to miss the playoffs.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I’d take a chance on belov improving. Also I think we should bring in 2or 3nhl defensemen. No gifting the spots to our young players lets get some competition for those spots going

  • Truth

    In a perfect world you don’t bring Belov back because you want Marincin/Klefbom in the 6/7 spots. This would require the Oilers picking up 2 defensemen better than those two. Hopefully one top 2 d man to play with Petry and one to slide in on the second or third pairing.