Report: Edmonton Oilers sign Anton Slepyshev

According to a report out of Russia, the Edmonton Oilers have signed Anton Slepyshev, a third-round pick of the club in the 2013 NHL Draft.

We still await official confirmation on this side of the Atlantic, but as TSN’s Ryan Rishaug notes this is hardly a surprising development. 

That three-year, two-way contract is the NHL’s typical entry-level pact, which Slepyshev would automatically be be assigned, with the only question being the exact structure of performance and signing bonuses (as a third-round pick, nothing onerous should be expected). 

Alexei Mikhnov

Alaexei Mikhnov

Way back when I was a teenage fan of the Oilers, the team drafted a big winger out of Russia. Alexei Mikhnov was the final first round pick of the Barry Fraser drafting era, No. 17 overall, and there was a lot to like about him. He was a massive (6’5″, 218 pounds today) power forward prospect and while his numbers never really got to where they ideally would have been he was that “big winger with skill” the Oilers have been searching out for the better part of two decades.

Every training camp, I remember wondering if he’d come over from Russia, and most years I’d be disappointed. One year he made the trip — just a brief visit, not to play — and the Oilers discovered that he had wretched eyesight and needed glasses. 

It took better than half a decade before Mikhnov finally arrived in North America at the age of 24. He played 27 games for Pittsburgh’s farm team (putting up 18 points) and appeared in two contests at the NHL level. He didn’t stay the full season; he returned to the Russian Super League and hasn’t been back since. 

It’s a bit of a horror story from a development perspective, and presumably the KHL for all its faults has improved the quality of assessment and development in Russia in the 15 years since Mikhnov was drafted. But it speaks to the need to get players over early, to teach them the North American game and get them into an entry-level position (an AHL job) while they’re still raw enough as players to accept an entry-level position.   

The Russian Pipeline

Yakimov, Bogdan

One of the underrated things that Craig MacTavish did during his time as general manager was accept Russia as a legitimate source of NHL players. For years, the Oilers rarely made forays overseas — Mikhnov was a rare exception and did not inspire confidence — but under MacTavish’s watch the Oilers sought out European free agents playing in the KHL and drafted Russian skaters developing on the far side of the Atlantic.

It’s still early to judge the results, but the third-round selections of Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev stack up well to those that preceded them. Edmonton had no picks in the third round in 2007 or 2008; here’s what they’ve done with those picks since 2009:

  • 2009 (2): Troy Hesketh, Cameron Abney
  • 2010 (1): Ryan Martindale
  • 2011 (2): Samu Perhonen, Travis Ewanyk
  • 2012 (2): Jujhar Khaira, Daniil Zharkov
  • 2013 (2): Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev

Zharkov didn’t work out, but he wasn’t a European hire; he was playing in the OHL when he was picked, dramatically reducing the risk of getting him to come overseas and increasing the number of scouts who saw him play live. 

Yakimov and Slepyshev both look like players who might be able to make a difference. Yakimov is a physical specimen, a 6’5″, 232 pound pivot who scored pretty well as a 20-year-old AHL rookie. Slepyshev is a 6’2″ winger with good speed who scored 25 points in 58 games this year (his age 20 season), a total which based on past experience projects to ~30 points over a full 82-game NHL season. Both are likely to start next year in Bakersfield.

Edmonton has gone from a team that largely ignored Russia and had problems when it didn’t to a club that drafts players and gets them to North America quickly. We don’t know yet if they’ll be rewarded for the shift, but the results so far are encouraging, encouraging enough that Peter Chiarelli should probably continue down his predecessor’s path in this respect. 

Update:

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • 916oiler

    I’m assuming at least a half year in the AHL before he even gets a sniff of NHL action. That said, what would be the best we could hope for out of him by the end of his ELC? Solid 3rd liner?

  • YFC Prez

    Does anyone else notice that JW really picks it up in the off season. Lots of articles and lots of content.

    Last year was like this too. He was pounding out articles faster than catholic rabbits reproduce.

  • vetinari

    Would be nice to get some help from the European ranks and see Slepyshev or Yakimov turn into regular NHLers someday. I think that Russia and the Nordic countries could be a good source of talent if the 2014 editions of the Belov’s and the Greneshkov’s can be screened and separated from the pack.

  • This is the original TASS report that Eronko cites, and it’s a fun read in Google Translate: http://tass.ru/sport/1998674
    (h/t to commenter Pouzar over at LT’s site)

    By the sounds of it, the Russian players in Edmonton encouraged Slepyshev to come over, he’s always wanted to do this and doesn’t have a problem going to the AHL if he can’t win an NHL job and he’ll be training traditionally with his father over the course of the summer.

    As always, I don’t speak Russian, and Google Translate tends to lose some nuance and inject some humour when used.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Great, another supposed elite unicorn and rainbow type.

    Maybe the NHL will phase out body contact so they don’t have to protect all these ladies.

  • TKB2677

    What’s with everyone’s love affair with Tkachev? The guy is 5’8, 163lbs. He had 33 pts in 33 games. A point a game in junior hockey for an offensive player isn’t very good. If you are that small, you need to be elite. He’s not elite.

      • Kevwan

        That’s not what the guy is saying. I like Tkachev too but the fact is that he didn’t put up points in his draft +1 as a small guy. Atkinson in his 2nd and 3rd year of NCAA put up 1.3 ppg in the NCAA, which is more than Tkachev put up in a league with a lot more scoring. So it’s a perfectly fair concern.

        I’m cool with drafting him late, but the reality is this year was disappointing, and if you are that small you have to put up numbers.

        • Kevwan

          the slight differece in PPG is not that big of a concern. The point of my comment was that he said small players need to be elite players, and that’s a load of crap.

          Is it a concernt that he’s small? For sure, do small players ONLY make the NHL if they are elite? Of course not.

          The players i listed a more than fair comparison for Tkachev, St Louis, Fluery, now those aren’t fair comparisons.

    • El Pindo

      Have you been watching the Memorial Cup? There has to be a reason the announcers are calling him “Vladdy Hockey”. I can envision him going up against Gaudreau.

    • Kevwan

      Quebec vs Rimouski tonight. Tune in and keep an eye on Vlad. I think you’ll be impressed.
      BTW, you can also watch Marco Roy. I believe they play on the same line.

    • Kevwan

      Did you not watch him at the penticton tournament and training camp? He clicked with a giant in yakimov and basicly ducked under everyone to set up the big man. Hes small but he uses that to his advantage. I don’t think anyone is going to say he’s gonna be the top scorer but he already has chemistry with a prospect in the system and he’s fun to watch.

    • Rocklobzter

      Have you watched any Memorial Cup games?? He splits the D at least twice a game and creates scoring chances almost every shift. the kids got insane skill

  • Jordan88

    Slepyshev tracks as a potential 1st line winger who can snipe filthy goals and stick handle in a phonebooth. He has raw talent, now its just up to Edmonton to properly develop him, considering the track record this is daunting, however Peter and Todd both have excellent track records of developing young players and putting the pieces together required to win.

    Oilers Domination to follow… and when that starts it won’t stop for a solid decade.

  • Spoils

    last year at training camp it was nice to see guys like Yakimov clearly showing size in the prospect pool… bring on the Detroit style build from within model

  • vetinari

    @Willis

    I took MacT’s quote on Justin Schultz from last year and ran it though “Google NHL GM Translate” and it went from this:

    “Untapped potential, incredible potential of this player. I feel like Justin is going to be a great player and a great Oiler. What we wanted to do as an organization is buy ourselves a little bit of time to give ourselves a chance to negotiate a long-term deal.

    He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability and was happy to take a short-term deal. Both sides chose not to go to arbitration, but we both agreed that wasn’t the right thing for a player we feel so strongly about, to put him through that divisive process. We had trouble agreeing on a number based on such a small sample size for Justin. We as an organization wanted a little more information, fully aware that information can be expensive. There’s a significant gap where the player is currently and where we expect him to be. Newport wasn’t going to undersell this player.

    Craig Ramsay will give him an experienced perspective on managing decisions, (while still) being aggressive.

    I disagree with the perception that he’s weaker on the defensive side of things. He showed me at the end of last year that he was managing the decisions on when to go, when to probe offensively, when to get back. I know he’s going to be a player that can be counted on in both ends. I think that Justin has Norris Trophy potential and I don’t think there are too many people who disagree with me in that regard… What Justin brings, everybody’s looking for, and we’re thankful we have him.”

    To this:

    “I love Justin Schultz and hate Jeff Petry. A one year contract gives us enough time to move Petry out by the trade deadline for a few draft picks. I’ll bet we maybe can even get a first rounder for him because teams always lose their minds at the deadline.

    We think that Schultz looks confident when he turns over the puck or starts to ‘Jultz’. Sometimes it seems effortless.

    Neither side wants arbitration because we think that Schultz will get Subban money and I’m sure if we give Schultz another year, he’ll maybe cap out at about Pronger level money.

    And now he can be Craig Ramsay’s problem. Those turnovers don’t just happen; they need to be practiced over and over. Perhaps for the balance of Eakins’ tenure?

    I know that some people think that Schultz has problems defensively. But c’mon. What do you think he is– a defencema… wha??? HE IS A DEFENCEMAN! Shoot. Thought he was a winger. Well, there’s no rule that he has to play defence when he’s out on the ice. In fact, I bet that he’ll get a Norris.”

  • What stands out to me when you watch the highlights of Slepyshev is the fact that he has a really fast release. He is good on the one timers. It must be a Russian thing, as it is very reminiscent of Yakupov.

    What is different than Yakupov though, is the fact that Slepyshev scores a lot of his goals from 2 feet in front of the blue paint. He seems to like driving the net and being in the slot. Whereas, Yakupov seems to always set up on the top of the circle and tends to do his one timer from there a lot, not to mention he is a master along the half wall and can play keep away for days.

    These 2 Russian Oilers could be a nice compliment to each other. Now to get Yakimov 100% healthy and centering this line, could be a force for the Oilers.

    The more I think about it, the more I like this signing.