From Russia without love


It’s the middle of summer, and news in the NHL is about as slow and uneventful as can be. None the less, small things are still happening like the Oilers loaning Bogdan Yakimov to the KHL. The Oilers have seemed to be unlucky with drafting Russians, so what’s the deal with that?


Maybe yes, maybe no.

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On July 27, news came that the Oilers loaned Bogdan Yakimov to the KHL for the second time in less than a year. As Lowetide pointed out, Yakimov’s game has dipped off in AHL year two vs. AHL year one, rather than have progressed like a team would hope.

When the Oilers drafted Yakimov in 2013, I thought that he could’ve been a steal for a third-round selection. Standing at 6’4, 201 lbs on draft day with a very skilled set of hands and solid positional play the Oilers looked to be getting a player they desired for so long – a big bodied center with offensive prowess. 

His big knock at the time had been his foot speed and it was still a toss-up if he would be an impact player at the NHL level. 

What does this mean for Big Bo? I reached out to Aivis Kalniņš who reports on the KHL actively and he had this to say:

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He wants to play at a high level, and he knew he wasn’t making the Oilers this season. He can get top line minutes here and develop. I would give it a season to see how things progress, but since he was loaned, I assume the Oilers know that he’s coming back.

Hmm, interesting. While playing at the AHL level, he averaged averaged the most eTOI/Gm among centers playing 15:49 a night in 36 games played. He scored 0.42 PPG this year (16pts/36 GP), while in his first year in the AHL he scored at a 0.49 PPG pace (28pts/57 GP).

If he is indeed heading back to Russia just for a year to develop before he has a good shot at making the Oilers, the move could be beneficial.


Good point. 

Historically, the Oilers have not done well drafting Russian players selecting 26 since they first selected Igor Viazmikin with a 12th round choice in 1987. He never played a game in the NHL. Those players suited up for a combined 536 games in an Oiler uniform with half of those belonging to Nail Yakupov.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a negative sentiment surrounding the style of game they play, and the attitude they bring to the rink with the classic “Oh they’re lazy players who only care about offense and fake injuries so they don’t have to play defense” argument. While I don’t believe that sentiment to be true, if you ask around I’m sure you could find someone who doesn’t like the Russians.

Just ask Don Cherry, who went on a famous rant about the way the Russians play the game in the first intermission of  a 1996 World Cup of Hockey match-up between Canada and Russia. 

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Or that time where Don still couldn’t believe they let Russians play in Canada, and went on a twitter rant about Nail Yakupov taking a “Good Ol’ Canadian Boy’s” spot in the Canadian Hockey League. 

Here are the Russians that did suit up for the Edmonton Oilers:

  • Anatoli Semenov – Sixth round, 1989 Entry Draft. He was the 2nd ever Russian draft pick by the Oilers and he put up 116 GP, 73 PTS with the team between 1990 and 1992. He later had stints with five other teams, and totaled 362 GP and 194 points in his eight year career.
  • Ilya Byakin – 11th round, 1993 Entry Draft. Byakin played for the Oilers in 1993-1994, scoring 28 points in 44 games as a defenceman. 
  • Alexander Kerch – Third round, 1993 Entry Draft. Kerch played five games in the NHL, all with the Oilers in 1993-1994.
  • Alexi Semenov – Second round, 1999 Entry Draft. One of the more notable Russian Oilers, Semenov played 103 games for the Edmonton Oilers between 2002 and 2004. He played in a second pairing role for the team, averaging over 17 minutes per night as a defenceman. He scored only 14 points wit the Oilers, and also had stints with Florida and San Jose. Since he left the NHL in 2009, he has played in the KHL and is still active at 35 years old. 
  • Nail Yakupov – 1st overall, 2012 Entry Draft. You all know who he is. Yakupov has been with the Oilers for four seasons now, and has totaled 252 games in the copper and blue scoring 111 points. He holds the title as most successful Russian Oiler based off his amount of games played period. Who knows where he is able to go from here in his career, as I feel like the upcoming season could be one that either makes, or breaks his time as an Edmonton Oiler.


It’s clear that in history, the Oilers have had little luck drafting Russians as well as having them come to play in North America. Some of the players I didn’t list had stints in the Oilers AHL system, but the team never seemed to be able to develop players until the beloved Oklahoma City Barons came around. 

Right now, the Oilers have Anton Slepyshev in the AHL in the American League, with Bogdan Yakimov and 2015 seventh rounder Ziyat Paigin in the KHL. Who knows what will come of any of those three. 

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  • Bills Bills

    The most entertaining part of this post is the display of bigotry by grapes.

    Maybe there is something to this failure by Edmonton to develop Russian players. is it always the players fault?

  • robc186

    That’s a pretty short list of Russians. There’s a much longer list of Oilers draft picks in general that haven’t made it to the NHL or were terrible. It’s the brain trust that doesn’t know how to draft. That’s the problem.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I still think nail can score in this league and be productive. He led the league in rookie goal scoring his first year. They need to find a way to stop his backward development, even if it means trading him. They need to find him a Krueger.

    If anyone doubts Yaks ability go back and read the quotes from his coach during his rookie season.

      • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

        He’s the chairman of the South Hampton football club in the English premier league…. I think the title speaks for itself, but if you don’t understand it means he is doing pretty good. Certainly not a failure by any means and I think it speaks volumes that he found high level employment in a sport he hasn’t even built his resume in. Not a fail by any means.

        • Randaman

          So he’s a great motivational speaker, big deal.

          My point is simply that Yak is and always has been a bust! Probably not a popular opinion but there it is.

    • Spydyr

      IMO the defining moment of Mac-T’s rein as Gm was firing Kruger over Skype and hiring Eakins because all hat no cattle Eakins bull$hitted his way into the job.

      It tells you all you need to know about Mac-T.

      • Spydyr

        My hope is a he is let go to pursue other opportunities. I would rather hear him go on about how good Schultz is as a colour commentator rather than having him influencing any part of the Oilers decision making process.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i don’t feel the Oilers should stop drafting Russians. similar to the bad luck they have had drafting goalies, with the exception being Dubnyk, you just continue to take these players and eventually one will work out you have to think?

  • SkatinginSand

    What about Boris “BoBo” Mironov? Six years in Edmonton, mostly in the top pairing.He did come in a trade for Dave “Charlie” Manson, but he was quality.

  • Pouzar99

    Cherry should be charged with child abuse for his treatment of Ron Maclean, and Ron, would you please Man Up. Just once tell Don to shut up. Grow a pair. It is depressing that we have a xenophobic clown and his timid enabler on HNIC. Even the Oilers have a better top pair.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    the Oilers have quite simply had a bad drafting history period, not just Russians and goalies! i’m glad we finally got rid of the previous stale scouts we had and got some fresh eyes in our scouting system, and the first 2 drafts we’ve had seem very promising as we seem to have actually addressed our areas of need, unlike previous management.

    • camdog

      Boris Mironov was the best Russian to ever suit for the Oilers and even he was a bit of an enigma. It’s not just Russian hockey players drafted by the Oilers, each and every Russian hockey player to ever play for this organisation has a history of being an enigma.

  • OilCan2

    Yak has to play like it’s the last year in his contract.

    Drafting is hit and miss. Even this year we lucked out with our first two. Granted our second rounder was injured the past season so I give thumbs up to the team for grabbing him. I’m sure the thank you note to Columbus is in the mail.

    Cherry hammed it up heavy but sadly many people actually would agree with him. He is actually very knowledgeable and low key away from the lens.

    Odds of ANY later round pick for the NHL are slim and none.