The conversation surrounding Anton Slepyshev last fall was very encouraging. The Russian winger arrived in the city with a nice combination of size, speed and skill—plus he could keep up in camp. As the days became weeks, he kept hanging around and impressing the right people.
- Todd McLellan: “Yes. When I look at his game, and I watched the video again—the video doesn’t lie. He did a lot of the things we worked on today in the game. He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before. You can see it, he’s been around pro players for awhile.”
- 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
Slepyshev did not capitalize on the early opportunity, although he did hang around to play in his first NHL games. He was sent out, struggled, and ended up as one of a few average AHL performers on right wing.
BAKERSFIELD RIGHT WINGERS 2015-16
Slepyshev’s KHL numbers suggested a more promising player than the one we see here, and a full season in Bakersfield (with a callup) might have him challenging for NHL time in 2017-18.
Photo by Mark Williams
- 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.”
- Some Slepyshev highlights
- A very interesting GIF showing Slepyshev in the AHL courtesy Shen Peng (Jewels From the Crown)
ANTON SLEPYSHEV BAKERSFIELD RE: 57GP, 21-19-40
ANTON SLEPYSHEV NHL RE 15-16: 1GP, 0-0-0
- What will his role be in Bakersfield? Slepyshev is 22, so this would be the season to dominate the AHL, if we are looking at an actual NHL player here. He did go 3-4-7 in seven early March games with the Condors, and as he mentions above there are things to work on.
- Where do you project him on the depth chart? My opening night RW roster in Bakersfield has Slepyshev as a top line option. Men like Tyler Pitlick, Patrick Russell and Greg Chase should also push for playing time, but Slepyshev would seem to be the most promising offensive option at the position.
- What has changed since his draft day? He has progressed in an unusual way, from one poor KHL season to an outstanding one—and then a surprising NHL job on opening night 2015-16, which was followed by a pedestrian AHL season.
- What does Slepyshev need to work on? The boxcars need to be better, and as with all young players the two-way game is a work in progress (based on reports).
- What one thing will get Slepyshev to the NHL? His scouting reports suggest a big winger with speed and skill. All kinds of ways for a player like that to get to the NHL, but the lack of consistency in the AHL is a concern.
- Anything else? New management is not directly connected to him, but McLellan liked him enough to keep Slepyshev on the roster last fall. Edmonton is going to need inexpensive wingers, he could be one.
- What will keep him out of the NHL? He needs to progress. Slepyshev is in no danger of getting pushed by a mountain of prospects (Top 20 here) but Jesse Puljujarvi passed him in the moments he was signing his new contract. That isn’t necessarily a smart move by the Oilers—Puljujarvi is a teenager—but that is the Oilers’ style.
- What does his coach say? Gerry Fleming: “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.” Source