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Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

What to do with Anton Slepyshev

After Anton Slepyshev stuck his foot in the door last season and kicked it open with three goals in the Oilers playoff run last spring, there was well-placed optimism for the Russian winger going into this year.

It was equal parts reasonable expectations and an inherent need for the Oilers to find scoring down their right wing on the cheap. That optimism was borne in part of necessity. This team needed Slepyshev, among others, to take significant steps forward.

An ankle injury Slepyshev suffered in training camp prevented the second-year NHL’er from finding his footing to start the season, and he’s had a hard time getting set since.

To this point in the season, Slepyshev’s played just 15 of the Oilers 38 games and has produced a lowly three points (one goal and two assists). It’s fair to suggest Slepyshev’s spent more time on the rumour mill than in the Oilers lineup this season.

With a mostly healthy forward group, Slepyshev’s been out of the Oilers lineup since a 4-0 December 14th loss to the Nashville Predators. As recently as December 18th, the Oilers sent Slepyshev to their farm team Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, an option that’s not going to be available to them for much longer — Slepyshev can play one more game before he loses waiver ineligible status.

At some point, this situation is going to come to a head, and the Oilers are going to have to decide what the plan is with Slepyshev or if he’s even worth the effort.

It’s inarguable that the lanky Russian has made significant strides. This year hasn’t been what anyone has expected, certainly not from an offensive perspective. There are signs though that the worm could turn for Slepyshev, though we’ve said that for a lot of Oilers this season — in some cases, it did and unproductive players started getting a little puck luck, others less so.

In the case of Slepyshev, though, we can see plausible reasons to expect his production to pick up if he gets the opportunity. In terms of process, there’s ample evidence to suggest Slepyshev’s grown from last season to this one, but the results haven’t followed.

Across the board, Slepyshev is shooting the puck more often per hour, generating more scoring chances per and more high-danger chances per hour — he’s even generating considerably more rebounds per hour, for whatever that is worth!

Slepyshev Ind. Corsi/60 Ind. Scoring Chances/60 Ind. HD Chances/60 Ind. Sh% On-Ice Sh%
2016-17 14.69 6.33 1.89 7.27 6.19
2017-18 14.96 9.26 2.49 5.56 5.41

Some of this is sampling. Numbers are subject to bounce all over the place in small samples like the 15 game one Slepyshev has to his credit this season or even the 41 games from last year. But still, there’s consistent growth at generating offence — doing the legwork to generate offence, anyway.

What’s more, Slepyshev’s two-way growth has been substantial. There’s a worthwhile argument to make that Slepyshev is an everyday NHL’er just based on the fact that when he’s on the ice, the Oilers are highly unlikely to come out in the red by goal differential. At the very least, he’s not harming you.

Slepyshev Corsi For% Rank on EDM Expected Goals For% Rank on Edm
2016-17 46.01 22 45.72% 25
2017-18 56.39% 1 61.4% 1

I’m almost certain some of what we’re seeing is a mirage, due to Slepyshev’s small sample. I look at these numbers and think that Slepyshev’s benefitting from having spent most of his year on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins flank and that he suffered last year playing on Drake Caggiula’s. He’d probably settle somewhere in-between those two extremes with a regular role in the middle of the lineup.

All this is to say, the Oilers likely have a useful, cost-controlled player in their midst, whether their usage suggests they’re aware of it or otherwise.

Putting Slepyshev on waivers, or even trading him really, seems ill-advised. The Oilers need cheap contributors with the contract extensions that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl signed last off-season, and there is ample evidence to suggest that Slepyshev can be just that.

At the very least, it seems unlikely that the Oilers can recoup value on Slepyshev relative to what he can theoretically bring to their lineup. They’re now in the stage of their competitive arc that they can’t settle on lottery tickets in the form of draft picks, and in this case, they’d be lucky to get a late pick at that. They need to actualize on the talent that’s readily available to them.

Players like Anton Slepyshev, that is. Not only should they keep him. They should find a way to get Slepyshev back into the lineup, on a night-to-night, game-to-game basis.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i knew that people would trash your comment but i was thinking the same. we are relying on too many kids still and Slepy, though he may eventually break out like Khaira apparently has, is taking a roster spot from a vet player that could actually help us make a playoff push. i almost gave up on Khaira too but maybe we don’t need to now but i think the Oilers should stop waiting for this guy and use him as trade bait for a player who can play, if we can do it. just my opinion.

    • Jordan88

      Ever watch any other organizations? They stick to their players and develop them.

      Oilers need to do that.

      Every Oiler that has left this organization has flourished. Im tired of being a NHL feeder team. I don’t care if it takes this season but the best teams build through adversity.

  • BringitbacklikeSlats

    Its so easy to give in to a current state of a team play and middling individual performance and cast aside players. It’s probably not a formula for winning teams. Losing a player under decent contract control to waivers seems like a bad idea.
    However I’m constantly amazed by the refrain from the writing community warning against trading players. It’s a bit ridiculous really. It’s like any other deal in life…”buyer beware”. But if a good return is offered why not? Just this idea that you can’t trade players is absurd. I believe the market in everything dictates value. But it seems like writers like to believe that for some reason Oilers players are worth more than that. They aren’t. They’re worth exactly what the market will bear.

    For numerous reasons, never will a trade work out exactly even for both clubs. There’s likely in every case that one side wishes they could have gotten more return but that’s just the risk you take when you play. And you HAVE to play if you’re an NHL GM. That’s what you’re paid to do. A team cannot win Year in yet out based solely on drafting/developing. Trades must occur and occur every year. I’m not saying they should trade Sleppy, but I’m saying they should absolutely consider it and ask about it. That’s just due diligence.

    • Slipknot 8

      The roster spots are far more valuable to the team despite the contracts for middling AHL players….
      Oilers are at 49 contracts they need to get down to 46 or 47. It doesn’t matter what the value of the contracts are, there’s literally a whole league worth of value contracts in the AHL and enough NHL players on value contracts..I’ll site Maroon and Pouliot as examples of players on fantastic value contracts that can be found.

  • belair

    Trade him to the Buffalo Sabres with a mid-round draft pick for Zemgus Girgensons.

    Anton Slepyshev is a depth winger who needs to produce offense to remain in an NHL lineup. He doesn’t kill penalties nor has he provided sufficient offense in the opportunities he’s been given, which makes him a bit redundant in the Oilers lineup this season. For his sake, Buffalo is looking for consistent scoring on the wings and could provide him with a fresh start with some quality centers.

    Girgensons on the other hand, provides the Edmonton Oilers with a more versatile option with the ability to play all three forward positions and be plugged into any available position. He would address our need for PK help and is signed at a favorable cap hit next season. He’s putting up a few points on Eichel’s wing as of late, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he did the same in Caggiula’s spot on RNH’s wing.

  • Total Points

    Keep Slep and waive Cammalleri. Nobody will pick Cammi up and he can then go on taxi squad and play as other players are injured or poor performance.

    No use putting Slep in minors or trading him at this point

    • belair

      Cammalleri is actually scoring though. He’s small, slow and defensively inept but for some reason he’s on pace for about 35 points playing minimal PP. I prefer him as a depth option over a guy with 3 points.

  • Bigwreck

    I think the answer is in this article really. He is big,can skate, is descent defensively, and an really shoot the puck. Everything you want in a depth NHL player. I believe he just needs areal chance and will prove his worth. He has not been handed a roster spot at any point like caggiula and to me has shown his worth multiple times. Todd has shown he is stubborn on many things, for example splitting up the centres, and I believe cagguila is benefiting from Todd giving him the push. Overall I think he just needs a real chance; he will have up and down games but I think he could be a better player than caggiula.

  • Finnaggled

    no. just no. the oilers need actual nhl ers, guys like sleppy and Caggiula are guys that will come about as real nhl ers in about 3-4 years after ironing out every possible crease in the ahl. we need winners now, value contracts are out there for adept gm’s. I’m so tired of hearing about the “theoretical” abilities of some of these guys.
    plus, does anybody else follow sleppy on Instagram?? I’m pretty sure buddy has a vagina.

      • 24% body fat

        and how many of those games with productive forwards? How much pp time? What is it every left handed playmaker (we have 3 good ones) wants on the opposite side of them during the PP, how about a hard shooting right handed shot.

        What does Caggulia bring to the powerplay. It was absolute garbage when he was on it.

        • JimmyV1965

          Khaira managed to find a way to produce in the fourth line and was rewarded for it. Schleppy must do the same. Find a way to produce when you’re in the lineup.

  • Shameless Plugger

    Why don’t Russians succeeed in Edmonton is the bigger question. Seriously name the last really good (not average not depth guy but really good) Russian who’s played here……

    I like Shhhleppy, but for one reason or another he just can’t gain any traction.

  • RJ

    I imagine that TM has some weird questionnaire that he asks players at the start of each season, and based on the responses he decides if he likes the player.

    TM: If you could be any colour, what colour would you be?
    Sleppy: Huh? I don’t understand.

    TM: sorry, you’re not top-9 material. Press box for you.

    Since Chia signed Caggiula, he probably gave him the answer: “tell him copper or blue” and say it with conviction and you won’t ever get the press box treatment.

    That makes as much sense as TM’s roster moves.

    • Baddogqq

      Put an isolation camera on benning. Can’t defend looks lost every time he touches puck in the defensive zone.only dimension of his game is his shot from the point.i would play davidson,atoivu or gryba over him every day of the week

  • Hockycrazed

    The whole team came out tonight playing as if they had a bad hangover from last night’s party, no one’s skating! Everyone’s just running around like a mad dog, aimlessly! Or, maybe their advance scouts did a better job than ours, course, they knew, from the get go, what the oil’s game plan is, intercepting passes, scoring at will!!! Let’s just say that an undermanned team outplayed our full ‘A’ team by a country mile! Playoffs? never mind, start scouting for our lottery pick is maybe the best course of action, I say!

  • JimmyV1965

    If the coach can manage to find playing time for Benning and the Drake, he should be able to do the same for Schleppy. He certainly can’t be worse than some of the players currently plaguing the roster.