Bogdan Yakimov is a massive centre who had an impressive training camp. How have things gone since then?
The Third Round of the 2013 NHL Draft
NHL teams selected 22 forwards in the third round of the 2013 Draft. The Oilers had two selections and went to Russia for both of them, taking Yakimov and winger Anton Slepyshev. Yakimov’s in the AHL and Slepyshev is still overseas; how does that compare to players selected by other teams?
- Still in junior or college (13): Yan-Pavel Laplante, Adam Tambellini, Nick Baptiste, Tyrell Goulbourne, Ryan Kujawinski, John Hayden, Taylor Cammarata, Jake Guentzel, Anthony Duclair (after 18-game NHL cameo), Carter Verhaeghe, Jimmy Lodge, Cole Cassels, Oliver Bjorkstrand.
- Playing in Europe (4): Pavel Buchnevich, Mattias Janmark, Anton Slepyshev, Peter Cehlarik.
- Playing in the AHL (5): Connor Crisp, Kurtis Gabriel, Bogdan Yakimov, Sven Andrighetto, J.C. Lipon.
It’s easy to forget that this is only the second year post-draft and that the majority of these players are still in the amateur ranks; only five of the 22 selections are playing professional hockey in North America at the moment. Of those five, where does Yakimov rank in terms of scoring?
- Sven Andrighetto: 25GP, 9-9-18 (0.720 points/game)
- Bogdan Yakimov: 36GP, 6-10-16 (0.444 points/game)
- J.C. Lipon: 41GP, 1-10-11 (0.268 points/game)
- Kurtis Gabriel: 31GP, 2-2-4 (0.129 points/game)
- Connor Crisp: 21GP, 1-1-2 (0.095 points/game)
Yakimov fares pretty well here. Aside from Andrighetto – an AHL rookie last year and the latest phenomenal pick by Montreal’s Trevor Timmins (at some point an NHL team is going to make Timmins a G.M. and if his track record is anything to go by he’ll be awfully good at it) – no player has done a better job of putting up points than Yakimov. He’s also clear of the numbers posted by Oilers 2010 picks Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton at the same age.
Nor is Yakimov’s scoring flat; he’s progressing as the season has gone on. Yakimov has played 36 games for the Oklahoma City Barons, so I’ve divided his season-to-date into quarters because the math was easy:
- First quarter: 9GP, 1-1-2, 17 shots
- Second quarter: 9GP, 0-5-5, 13 shots
- Third quarter: 9GP, 1-2-3, 25 shots
- Fourth quarter: 9GP, 4-2-6, 20 shots
That’s not definitive by any stretch – we’re looking at a small run of games in each case and we don’t know how Todd Nelson and Gerry Fleming have used the player. What we do know is that Yakimov is shooting the puck with far greater frequency (45 shots in his last 18 games as opposed to just 30 in his first 18) and that the increase in shooting volume has coincided with him scoring more goals.
The Edmonton Oilers are not a patient franchise, regardless of how often they preach patience to their fans. Here’s what general manager Craig MacTavish said at the start of October when the Oilers made their final cuts of training camp:
The downside today is that we lost a lot of size, and a lot of it up the middle, but it’s just not time for those guys yet. Bogdan [Yakimov] was close; we entertained thoughts of keeping him. Jujhar [Khaira] was very close, we entertained thoughts of keeping him. We need these guys to develop and get here quickly. Because of the performance level of those two, we’re less likely to add somebody that would be filler in the centre ice position. If we could add somebody that’s going to have a big impact and fill a lot of areas of need we’d be open to doing that, but we’re less likely to do something as a band-aid solution.
Khaira, a rookie pro, has not distinguished himself in Oklahoma City so far this year; he has six points in 36 contests. He does seem to be progressing somewhat; after a 20-game pointless run he now has one goal and two assists in his last five contests and like Yakimov he’s shooting the puck more. His training camp performance was a mirage, at least if the Barons’ coaching staff can be trusted; he needs more time.
Yakimov too should probably be put in ink on the Barons’ 2015-16 roster to start the year. The Oilers tried to push things this season – when they needed a centre early they brought Yakimov up to play the Kings rather than recalling Anton Lander – but this is probably a case where Edmonton needs to fight its baptism-by-fire instincts. Yakimov seems to be improving as the year goes by, but he’s not scoring a point-per-game and really making an impossible to ignore case. Another year in the minors will allow him to continue rounding out his game; importantly too it will also mean that the Oilers have some depth at the centre position, a luxury the team hasn’t had in quite some time.
Yakimov is a good fit for need, given that he’s a) a centre b) 6’5” and 232 pounds and c) a guy who can contribute on both sides of the puck. But the Oilers should be patient with him, waiting until he forces his way into the NHL rather than forcing him into the league too early.