A recent surge in Russian drafting by Edmonton since 2012 is probably (partly) a result of the team’s decision to draft Nail Yakupov out of the OHL that summer. Over the years, Oilers scouts went through Russian customs once every blue moon and that is reflected by the low number chosen from the country. Between 1979 and 2011, Edmonton drafted 22 players posted in Russia out of 339 names. That’s 6.5 percent, and the Oilers have received about what you might expect from such lukewarm interest. The best Russian draftee who played his junior hockey in Russia? Anatoli Semenov, 362 NHL games.
In 2012, the Oilers drafted Nail Yakupov and Daniil Zharkov and even though that didn’t work out, it sparked interest in Russian prospects. Since Peter Chiarelli took over, the club has used one (late) selection in Russia. Will it continue?
PLAYERS/PLAYERS FROM RUSSIAN LEAGUES DRAFTED BY YEAR
- 2016 NHL draft—211 total players, 12 from Russia
- 2015 NHL draft—211 total players, 11 from Russia
- 2014 NHL draft—210 total players, 7 from Russia
- 2013 NHL draft—211 total players, 8 from Russia
- 2012 NHL draft–211 total players, 6 from Russia
- 2011 NHL draft, 211 total players, 6 from Russia
- 2010 NHL draft 210 total players, 4 from Russia
- 2009 NHL draft, 211 total players, 6 from Russia
- 2008 NHL draft, 211 total players, 9 from Russia
- FINAL TALLY: 1,897 total players, 69 from Russia
- PERCENTAGE: 3.6%
PLAYERS/RUSSIAN PLAYERS DRAFTED BY THE OILERS, BY YEAR
- 2016 NHL draft—9 total players, 0 from Russia
- 2015 NHL draft—6 total players, 1 from Russia
- 2014 NHL draft—6 total players, 0 from Russia
- 2013 NHL draft—10 total players, 2 from Russia
- 2012 NHL draft–7 total players, 0 from Russia
- 2011 NHL draft–9 total players, 0 from Russia
- 2010 NHL draft–11 total players, 0 from Russia
- 2009 NHL draft–7 total players, 0 from Russia
- 2008 NHL draft–5 total players, 0 from Russia
- FINAL TALLY: 70 total players, 3 from Russia
- PERCENTAGE: 4.3%
Since 2013, the Oilers have drafted three men from Russian leagues, that’s 9.7 percent. The NHL overall (including Edmonton) is drafting from this region at a 4.5 percent clip. As is the case in so many areas since Craig MacTavish took over as general manager, the draft trends for Edmonton experienced a paradigm shift. Can we say the trend continues into the Peter Chiarelli era? Too soon to know.
RUSSIAN PLAYERS FROM RUSSIA SINCE 2008
- 2013—Bogdan Yakimov (1 NHL game), Anton Slepyshev (50 NHL games)
- 2015—Ziyat Paigin
All three of these players were good bets on draft day and there’s every chance Edmonton will get at least one player out of the experiment. I would argue the Russian arm of the procurement body has been a success, and further investment should be considered.
RUSSIA’S BEST, 2017
- R Klim Kostin, Balashikha (MHL). Giant winger, good offense. Shoots left. Injured.
- LC Alexei Lipanov, Dyanmo Balashikha (VHL). Smart two-way player, skilled.
- F Andrey Altybarmakyan, St.Petersburg (MHL). Math can’t pronounce his name either, but adores him.
- G Daniil Tarasov, Ufa (MHL). Tall thin goalie impressed at U18s. .918SP.
- C Igor Svyrev, Magnitogorsk (MHL). Skill center, impressive offense.
- G Alexander Samoilov, Armiya Moskva (MHL). .928SP, blossomed this year.
- G Vladislav Sukhachyov, Chelyabinsk (VHL). Impressive SP (.932) again.
- F Pavel Shen, Marmonty Yugry (MHL). Small, skilled, August 1999.
- L Roman Krikunenko, HK Ryazan (VHL). Small skill winger.
- L Evgeny Mityakin, Yekaterinburg (MHL). A 1997, scored well and has size.
- R Daniil Skorikov, Ufa (MHL). Big (6.03) winger with some offense.
- LD Pavel Yelshansky, St. Petersburg (MHL). Big two-way defenseman.
- L Kirill Slepets, Yaroslavl (MHL). Good speed, some skill.
- F Alexei Toropchenko, Balashika (MHL). Big goal scorer (19 this season).
- F Mikhail Zholobov, Spartak Moskva (MHL). 20, he can score.
- F Razat Timirov, Neftekhimik (MHL). Impressive numbers.
I have a friend, we’ll call him Yuri, who lives in Edmonton and grew up here and in Moscow. He lived in the Kremlin as a young boy, and moved to Canada with his Mom years ago. Yuri is a good fellow, a decent sort and I respect him, trust his words.
When the Oilers drafted Nail Yakupov, Yuri was understandably excited about it and we got together a few times for lunch and talk of things of interest. I talked a lot (I assume you know this to be true in all exchanges), but managed to listen to Yuri about a few things, too.
From the start, Yuri was worried about Nail Yakupov’s adjustment to Canada. I dismissed (do we do this more than we used to, or is it just me?) the idea, insisting his time in the OHL would give him sufficient time to adjust. Yuri was less sure. He kept saying Moscow Russian was different than Nizhnekamsk Russian, and I kept thinking about the difference between Toronto and Maidstone. It’s a gap, but you can survive in Toronto if you avoid the transit and you can survive in Maidstone if you’re not an ass. I don’t know the culture gap, the experience gap, the lifestyle gap that makes small Russian cities created in 1961 different than my part of the world, but do know it is so and that Yuri was right to worry.
These kids have perhaps the greatest cultural fracture to overcome in the entire hockey world when coming from the isolated areas of Russia. I think there are things to learn from the Nail experience, including slow-playing progress.
I don’t know if the same applies for Jesse Puljujarvi, but it is worth considering. One of the things Edmonton did late (perhaps too late) was find a mentor center in Derek Roy. Perhaps we will see that next season with Puljujarvi.
OILERS DRAFT PICKS, 2017
- First Round: No. 24 overall
- Third Round: No. 81 overall (FROM ST. LOUIS—this is payment for Nail Yakupov)
- Third Round: No. 86 overall
- Fourth Round: No. 117 overall
- Fifth Round: No. 128 overall (FROM Vancouver—this is payment for Phil Larsen)
- Fifth Round: No. 148 overall
- Sixth Round: No. 179 overall
- Seventh Round: No. 210 overall
OILERS NEEDS BASED ON CURRENT DEPTH CHART
- Left Wing: The Oilers prospect depth chart includes NHL-ready Drake Caggiula and Jujhar Khaira, former defender Joey Laleggia and oft-injured prospect Tyler Benson. Extreme need at the position.
- Right Wing: Jesse Puljujarvi is a major piece of the future and does a long way to solving things at RW. Anton Slepyshev is edging closer to securing an NHL job, but not much coming up after those two men.
- Right Defense: Aggressive procurement of Matt Benning, Ethan Bear and Ryan Mantha make this position a little stronger from what we were looking at this time next season. More needed, but the club is getting there.
- Goal: Laurent Brossoit is in the NHL now, with Nick Ellis trending very well in his first year pro. Dylan Wells has been an excellent draft bet so far.
- Left Defense: At the big league level, the Oilers have youngsters Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. Caleb Jones and or Ziyat Paigin could be pushing soon. Edmonton can afford to pass on a LHD unless the value is extreme.
- Center: If you include Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, this is one of the deepest positions in the entire NHL.
OILERS TARGETS BASED ON THEIR OWN PAST
- Klim Kostin, Daniil Tarasov, Alexei Lipanov.
MY PREFERRED TARGETS
- Andrey Altybarmakyan, Vladislav Sukhachyov, Pavel Shen.
- First Round: No. 24 overall: L Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (SHL). He’s a solid pick in this range, as the offense should be enough to cover a top 6F role. He could end up being a checker and that’s fine, but the Oilers should aim high enough to get a skilled forward in the first round. Vesalainen fits the bill. Edmonton are up against it a little, this pick has to be able to play (Tyler Benson’s injuries may mean he has a Marc Pouliot career). Safe pick in the first round makes sense from here.
- Third Round: No. 81 overall (FROM ST. LOUIS—this is payment for Nail Yakupov): L Jonah Gadjovich, Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Emerging PF, 40-goal man. He goes to tough areas and has a really good touch around the net. Some differing opinions on his skating, but at this number he appears to be a reasonable bet.
- Third Round: No. 86 overall: RC Morgan Geekie, Tri-City Americans. C w/2-way rep and emerging offense. I love him but he’s not going to go anywhere close to my ranking. I bet the Oilers can get him here, if not him then Steenbergen.
- Fourth Round: No. 117 overall: LD Max Gildon, USNDTP (USHL). Size, speed, skill. Inconsistent or he would be higher. I think the Oilers are going to take one kid from this program every year from now on.
- Fifth Round: No. 128 overall (FROM Vancouver—this is payment for Phil Larsen): R Aatu Luusuaniemi, Karpat (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Winger with skill, excellent boxcars, zero buzz. Has the second most outstanding name in my mock! Incredible.
- Fifth Round: No. 148 overall: RD August Berg, Brynas (SuperElite). Speedy defender with skill. He has some wobble and might be a bit of a project but the boots the boots the boots.
- Sixth Round: No. 179 overall: F Andrey Altybarmakyan, St.Petersburg (MHL). No one takes Russians early anymore, and who hates their jersey seamstress this much? His numbers are terrific.
- Seventh Round: No. 210 overall: L Kyle Maksimovich, Erie Otters (OHL). Small, very skilled player. I thought he should go last year and remain stubborn on him.