The Edmonton Oilers are set at center (if Leon Draisaitl plays there) and left wing for the coming year, but the right side up front has some question marks. There is plenty of potential behind Jordan Eberle, but who gets the 2R job? The 3R role? Anton Slepsyshev broke camp with the big club a year ago, can he do it again?
Last September, Slepyshev impressed Todd McLellan and the Oilers coaching staff to the point where making the team seemed possible:
Todd McLellan: “He has the ability to play a
heavy game and use his shot. He’s played with speed guys and with
grinders … he’s getting better night after night and he’s really opening
the coaches’ eyes.” Source
As a matter of fact, Slepyshev did make the Oilers opening night roster and hit the ice 31 seconds into his first game with linemates Anton Lander and Taylor Hall!
Of course Jordan Eberle wasn’t in that game and that was the opportunity that allowed Slepyshev an extended look in the NHL. Alas, the offense didn’t come, so he was sent to the AHL—where the offense also didn’t come.
NHLE represents NHL equivalency, and that number is shy by at least a mile. If we are discussing a strong NHL prospect, Slepyshev should be far beyond the number posted here.
There is a path to the NHL this year for Anton Slepyshev—in fact, there are several:
- Struggles by Nail Yakupov
- Jesse Puljujarvi not being ready
- Zack Kassian being unable to fill a top 9F role.
That is a lot of ifs, but I think it also comes down to the player and his ability to adjust. It is pretty clear what needs to be improved:
Slepyshev on what he needs to do in order to get back to the NHL:
“When the Oilers management sent me down to the AHL to play in
Bakersfield they clearly let me know what I did well and what I needed
to work on. I took what I needed to work on and have been developing
those skills in the AHL. In my time in the AHL, I have learned to think
faster on the ice and make quicker decisions. I also learned how to play
stronger and win battles against the boards. I now understand what a
smart decision in this kind of hockey is and I understand what an unwise
decision is. I am trying to find the keys to success in this league. I
have been working on things that will translate into points. Points are
what I really lack.”
Condors coach Gerry Fleming on what he needs to work on: “He’s got good skill assets. He just has to bring it
on a consistent basis. There’s times when he was caught just standing
around but I think that was just getting used to the league and the way
the North American game is compared to the KHL where a lot of guys
showcase their talents individually. Here it’s a smaller area to work
with so you’ve got to use your teammates and you’ve got to always come
to the puck and play on the inside. It just took him a little while to
understand but he’s starting to grasp the concept and as a result his
play has been better.”
That is very specific information from both player and coach, and I think gives us tremendous insight into the player at this time.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think it all comes down to what Todd McLellan thinks about Slepyshev this fall. He liked his size, speed and skill a year ago, and there is going to be an opening at some point this season. This is still early days for the Oilers of Chiarelli and McLellan and there are spots on the roster to be won. Each season that passes will see fewer clear openings.
A year ago, Slepyshev and others were chasing an opportunity that came about due to Jordan Eberle’s injury. We should not forget that fact this fall: Anton Slepyshev impressed some important people a year ago, and he could do it again.
Photo by Mark Williams. All rights reserved.