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The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Nikita Yevseyev’s 2022-23 Season Review

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Bruce Curlock
8 months ago
Nikita Yevseyev will not be in the top ten of the Oilersnation Prospect Countdown that is just around the corner.
However, context matters. To be clear, Nikita Yevseyev would be in the top ten, but for the fact he is a Russian, playing in the KHL with a contract that does not expire until the end of the 24-25 season.  Add to this, the fact the Oilers have not done well with Russian prospects over the years and Yevseyev gets a lower grade than he otherwise would or should. In my opinion, the Oilers have one defensive prospect who is more advanced than him. Yes, just one. If the off-ice doesn’t get in the way of the on-ice, the Oilers will have found themselves a bona fide NHL player.

What Did I See This Year?

Well after signing up to watch the KHL this season, my credit card was promptly hacked. Not a great start. However, once Boris and Natasha were blocked from buying used Lada’s with my card, I was able to enjoy most of the season of Nikita Yevseyev. To refresh, Yevseyev was a sixth-round pick of the Oilers in the 2022 NHL draft. Yevseyev played the majority of his draft year in the VHL, which is a tier below the KHL (Think AHL to NHL as a comp). In the 2022-23 season, he played two games in the VHL, but overwhelmingly spent his year with AK Bars of the KHL. In his time with AK Bars, he played 48 games and went 5-2-7. His team went on a long playoff run before losing in the 7th game of the Gagarin Cup to CKSA. He played all 22 games of the playoffs and added 1-3-4.

Bruce, These Numbers Are Not Impressive!

Well on the face of it, not wrong. The numbers are modest both in the regular season and the playoffs. Here is another modest set of numbers. He played an encouraging 14 minutes a night for his first two months of the season. Then declined to 8 minutes over the next two months of the season. He suffered a month-long injury that took him out of the line-up until the KHL playoffs started. In the Gargarin Cup, he played eight and a half minutes a night.
Again, pretty modest set of numbers.
So why am I so unconcerned? His birthdate. He was born May 10, 2004. In other words, he played his first KHL season, entirely as an 18-year-old. That’s impressive beyond expression. The KHL is the second-best league in the world. AK Bars asked an 18-year-old to play and play some decent amount of minutes. To give you some perspective, Artem Duda, who was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the same 2022 NHL draft, only played 14 KHL games.  Or there is Shakir Mukhamadullin, the 20th overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft. He played 39 games in the KHL in his draft plus one year. Want someone who has more NHL substance? How about Vladislav Gavrikov who the Oilers saw in the 2022-23 playoffs. He was a 6th round pick like Yevseyev, but in the 2015 draft. In his draft plus one season, he played only 16 KHL games. The remainder of his season was split between the VHL and MHL.
As with any prospect, context matters. Certainly, Nikita Yevseyev’s first year as a pro hockey, has a whole lot of context and it is all good in my books.

So What Does The Kid Got?

Obviously, the numbers are the numbers. They are good. There is another good set of numbers. Yevseyev is 6’2″ and 190 pounds. He has the body type to handle big players on the small, NHL ice surface. Then combine it with this skating ability below. Yevseyev is an excellent four way skater easing from lateral to forward-backwards skating without loss of pace or balance.

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While his scoresheet results were modest, he definitely has good offensive instincts across all three zones.

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Add to this is the fact that Yevseyev has a very underrated shot. It’s strong and accurate even from distance and I expect that Yevseyev will see additional offensive opportunities this season.

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Combine all of this with the fact that Yevseyev is a sublime defender. There is nothing fancy about his game. He uses his skating and size to attach himself to attackers before setup and disrupt the play before it happens. In the KHL playoffs, he was on the ice for one even-strength goal against and nine for. The puck goes in all the right directions when he is on the ice.

What Is Next?

This year we want to see a couple of developments. More ice time on the whole and in more meaningful situations. We also want to see his point totals increase to validate the offensive skills he appears to have in spades. Obviously, more than anything, we would love to see him in Edmonton sooner rather than later, but even just a sign that the NHL is on his radar would be very encouraging. If that occurs, the Oilers might be on the verge of having another late-round defensive gem in their system.
That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for the Oilersnation top prospect countdown coming up very soon. As always feedback here or to @bcurlock on the X.

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