In what has been a strange year for him, Bogdan Yakimov currently plies his trade for Neftekhimik of the KHL. He has played in six games, has an assist and is averaging 13:36 and is dominating the FO circle (63.5%). Question: Will we ever see him again?
At the end of December, Bogdan Yakimov left the Oilers NA organization and headed to the KHL. At the time, the story seemed a little vague—although Jim Matheson did supply some details:
Matheson: The 21-year-old centre, one of the Oilers’ better
prospects, had an out-clause in his Oilers organization contract to go
back to Russia if he chose, and he reportedly did so at the behest of
his father. The Oilers didn’t want him leaving and neither apparently
did his agent. They retain his playing rights. Source
Oilers fans are familiar with players leaving for Europe when their contracts elapse (Teemu Hartikainen), and of course the organization famously walked Toni Rajala when the young skill winger requested the opportunity to go back to Europe and play for substantial dollars. In this case, it sounds like there was a family influence. Yakimov has been quoted on the subject of his father before:
Yakimov: ”My parents are everything for me. I’m constantly talking about
hockey with my father. He isn’t a hockey player, but he gives me good
advice. For example he always tells me who to follow if I need to learn
something new. He also remembers how I played in the past and we compare
it with how I play now. If I do something good he helps me in turning
it into a habit. He seen years and years of my practices and games,
therefore he understands hockey very well. We watch every game and we
try to analyze what should I work on. When he or my mama are near me, I
feel much better. Only that I don’t discuss games with mama, of course
This injury to RNH might be the opportunity that Bogdan Yakimov needs to…oh wait. #Oilers
— Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy) January 19, 2016
McLellan also said if Bogdan Yakimov had not gone back to Russia, he would have been the next call up. #Oilers
— Derek Van Diest (@SUNdvandiest) January 19, 2016
THE INDUSTRY REACTION
I spoke to Tom Lynn from Veritas Hockey this week about this subject in a universal sense. When a player jumps back from North American pro (NHL or AHL) is that the end of the line for the player in the organization? How does the industry view this?
- Lynn: ”I think Yakimov’s situation was an accomplished Russian player spending a second year in the minors, same thing that happened with Viktor Tikhonov.”
The player agent also said Yakimov could easily return come the fall:
- Lynn: ”There will be changes made in the Oilers organization I’m sure, after seeing what Peter Chiarelli did when he took over in Boston, so he may look in the situation in July and say, we’ll give it another chance. I’m not saying he is coming back, just saying it is completely up in the air and you can’t read the tea leaves on that one.”
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Yakimov is a big forward (6.05, 232) who has been able to put up crooked numbers in the AHL (76GP, 15-20-35, 159 shots). Peter Chiarelli’s Boston (and Providence teams) tended to have large bodies who could play, and Yakimov—although unlikely to play a feature role for the Oilers—could be a future role player on a Chiarelli team in Edmonton. The Nugent-Hopkins injury may well have been the opening needed, but that opportunity was not available to the player because he was in the KHL.
I think the mere fact Edmonton hasn’t walked him—as they did with Rajala—is an indication of their interest in retaining him. I once wrote about walking Rajala as an indication that the Oilers hadn’t learned the lesson of ‘get good players, keep good players’ and the return of Yakimov in the fall might indicate a change in the weather.
My guess is we see him again. Thoughts?
- Rajala article
- Photo of Yakimov by Mark Williams.