When Anton Slepyshev was drafted I thought it was a good
gamble by then GM Craig MacTavish. Today it looks like a great one. It might even
go down as one of the best moves MacTavish made during his short and ill-fated
tenure as general manager.
Yes, it’s a little too early to proclaim Slepyshev an NHL
player and a true success story, but he’s certainly tracking well up to this
point. Even before the injury to Jordan Eberle it looked like Slepyshev was
making his own opportunities with the club. This training camp he has turned
heads for all the right reasons.
First, he showed up to camp big. He is still listed at 6’2”
and 194 pounds on the Oilers site, but he came into Edmonton weighing more than
215 pounds. Edmonton is a team littered with forwards in the 190-200 pound
range. What they distinctly lack are bigger men. While I don’t think all
players need to be 215+ pounds to be effective, showing up to Oiler camp with
those dimensions makes you stand out.
The new GM said he wanted big players and Slepyshev
delivered. Step one.
The next thing he needed to do was prove he had enough skill
to challenge for an NHL job.
Anton Slepyshev, from my perspective, has done more than
enough in camp to prove that he’s at least in the running for an NHL job down
the line. My honest assessment of the Russian winger is that his skill level is
there but his comfort level isn’t. Maybe that’s just my expectations painting
what I saw early on, but it looked like the North American ice was a pretty big
adjustment for him.
There have been aspects of his game, taken as separate units,
that are NHL quality. For example he happens to have a really good shot. This
is something that’s been known about him for quite a while. The scouting
reports on him from his original draft day (in which he was passed over) note
that he’s been a shooter for some time. Lowetide always seems to find good
quotes on young players, check him out here for Slepyshev.
In any event, what we’ve seen in camp is that this player
does not need the puck on his stick for a long period of time in order to
generate a decent shot. He has a really good one-timer that comes off of his
blade with authority. He’s also been involved in some of the prettiest
preseason Oiler goals. The pass to the slot he made in the last game which resulted in a Lander
goal was a thing of beauty.
Another excellent quality we’ve seen so far is that he isn’t
afraid to get into the corners and be difficult to move off the puck. He is
generally impressive on the forecheck and with his combination of size and
hands that makes him a dangerous player. I like what I’ve seen.
With Jordan Eberle hurting his shoulder to the tune of four to six weeks out, there is a massive hole in the lineup. Nobody wants to see someone
get hurt, but Anton Slepyshev was earning one of the first recalls this fall
and this might be the opportunity he was hoping for.
The lines in practice were:
Hall McDavid Draisaitl
Pouliot RNH Purcell
Korpikoski Lander Yak
Hendricks Letestu Klinkhammer
Slepyshev was rotating in and out of the Lander/Yakupov
line. So it appears as though at the moment he’s still on the outside looking
in. However, there’s no denying that he adds a different dynamic to the club.
A third line of Korpikoski Lander Yak
should in theory be more defensively sound than Yak Lander Slepyshev, but if
the Oilers want a third attacking line then a unit that includes Slepyshev
might be more desirable. The club will need to offset the loss of Eberle and
the kid might be able to spot in.
The young Russian has plenty of obstacles to overcome,
including the contracts of veteran players, but he has acquitted himself well
in camp. With four points in five games and plenty of ice time with skilled players
where he didn’t look too out of place, I’m not sure what more he could be doing
That gamble MacTavish made — taking an overage Russian who had
been passed over in the draft the year before — looks pretty fantastic today.
From where I sit, it’s hard not to imagine Slepyshev as Teddy Purcell’s
permanent replacement in the future. If he does end up in the AHL to start the
year then it’s perfectly fine. I have no problem letting him become more
comfortable with the North American ice and game in Bakersfield. I’m just not quite ready to say he’s definitely starting the year in the AHL.
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