Edmonton Oilers prospect Bogdan Yakimov has spent the majority of this season playing for the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL, and the 6’5” centre has done reasonably well, putting up 28 points in 57 games as a 20-year-old rookie. In late March he did an interview with a Russian outlet talking about his experience, and on Wednesday portions of that interview were translated into English.
It’s an interesting read.
The original interview was conducted by Dmitry Belousov of Business-Online, and most of the critical material was translated by Alessandro Seren Rosso of The Hockey Writers. The original is worth a look through Google Translate for those really interested; there is some untranslated material there, including what looks like a funny joke about Yakimov leaving his number with Belousov to pass on to girls interested in marrying him.
But the meat of the article makes its way (in far more readable form) to Rosso’s translation, and Yakimov comes across as a guy who is finding his way pretty well in a different country and culture, as well as a player who is being well-handled by the Oilers’ development system.
Three points in particular stood out to me.
1. Edmonton reminds him of home. After mentioning how much he enjoyed the city of Los Angeles during his brief NHL stint, Yakimov mentioned how much Edmonton reminded him of his home town of Nizhnekamsk (which is also where Nail Yakupov comes from).
“I also liked Edmonton a lot, where I spent the whole summer [of 2014],” Yakimov told Belousov. “That city remembers me of Nizhnekamsk. Very similar, with the same relaxed pace. It’s interesting there, and you always have something to do. There aren’t many traffic jams, it doesn’t feel like there is too much, but at the same time there is anything you need. All is like Nizhnekamsk. And people truly love hockey! That’s what I need the most.”
2. The importance of mentorship. Yakimov specifically mentioned teammate Jason Williams as someone he tried to imitate, saying that he always watches what Williams is doing and emphasizing the importance of having that kind of teammate to learn from.
“He helped me a lot in the faceoff dots,” Yakimov explained. “I remember that I wasn’t that good at it when I got here first. Only here in America I understood how important is to win faceoffs. This is very important because it can give your team the upper hand. I do not know what kind of winning percentage I have as we don’t have stats, but I think I win about sixty percent of my faceoffs.”
Williams, who turns 35 this summer, was seemingly brought in to fill the same role that Josh Green did for the Barons. In each case, the player was a long-time NHL’er in the twilight years of their careers but still capable of bringing competence and experience to an AHL team.
3. He’s getting ice time. Asked about his role in Oklahoma City, Yakimov told Belousov that he’s primarily being used as an offensive forward, but also that of late he’s been taking on really significant ice time for the Barons.
“In the last 30 games I played about 18-19 minutes a night, and this is a solid ice time,” Yakimov said. “I’m glad to have a coach that makes me play. This is what is really needed to a 20-years-old player: play as much as possible, and not warm the bench.”
The whole piece is well worth reading, but the feeling of the piece comes across in those excerpts. Yakimov seems to be enjoying his time in the AHL, getting opportunities and being well-handled by the coaches. He’s arguably the most important prospect in the minors, so this is all good news for the Oilers.
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