The Edmonton Oilers had a major hole on defense in spring 2013, and spent a roster spot and significant dollars on Russian Anton Belov. The reward? An immediate addition to their top 6 at the NHL level, and time purchased for the kids to mature.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER SEVEN ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: D Jeff Woywitka (278)
- December 2005: L Alexei Mikhnov (2)
- December 2006: G Devan Dubnyk (157)
- December 2007: C Riley Nash (58)
- December 2008: D Jeff Petry (179)
- December 2009: D Jeff Petry (179)
- December 2010: C Tyler Pitlick (3)
- December 2011: D Martin Gernat (0)
- December 2012: C Jujhar Khaira (0)
Woywitka has played in 278 games but in 50 games in one season only twice; Mikhnov was a bust and we’re going to be waiting on Pitlick, Gernat and Khaira for awhile. However, there’s some successful players here: former 1st round pick Devan Dubnyk, 2nd round selection Jeff Petry and possibly Riley Nash (another 1st rounder). Petry and Dubnyk were not sexy picks but as we head toward the middle of the decade following their selection, both offer impressive value.
WHAT THEY SAID WHEN THEY SIGNED HIM
- MacT: “I expect him to make the team. We’re planning on starting the season with him with us next season.”
- MacT: “We went over (to the WHC) watched him and very much liked what we saw. We’re excited to have him.”
- MacT: “It’s a move to trying to build more mobility into our back end. He moves the puck well. He makes quick decisions with the puck. He has a high skill level and competes hard. The expectation is that he’s going to come in and help us.”
- MacT: “He’s big. He plays heavy. He’s got some toughness.”
- Belov: “I am very happy I ended up with the Oilers. Of all of the clubs the Oilers showed the most interest. First of all, I think, it’s because the team needs a defenseman of the type I am… I heard that the Oilers GM Craig MacTavish came to the World Championships and watched me play. I like the fact that the team in Edmonton is turning out to be very promising. There are young stars, especially on offense, so the club has a big future.”
- Dmitry Chesnokov: “If I have to describe him in one sentence, I’d say that the past season, and considering it was a lockout season so there were a lot of NHL players in the KHL, he was probably, unofficially the best defenceman in the KHL. This is the best way to describe him. He was one of the brighter spots on the Russian national team at the World Championships. Everybody knows the … performance that team had, but he was one of the players who stood out. The amount of improvement he has shown the past few years along with his e maturity, I think Edmonton has got a great, great player.”
2013-14 NHL SEASON (so far)
- 22, 0-4-4 24pims
- 0-2-2 evens (0.34 5×5/60)
- 0-2-2 power play (1.41 5×4/60)
- CorsiON: -3.1, 2nd best on the Oilers
- Qual Comp: the soft parade
- EV TOI: 16:52 per game, 5th on Oilers
- PP TOI: 2:02 per game, 3rd on Oilers
- PK TOI: 50 seconds, 7th on Oilers
- Overall TOI: 19:45, 5th on Oilers
THE VOLLMAN SLEDGEHAMMER
Eakins is handling him like a rookie in terms of tough matches and his zone starts are about average. He’s clearly among the top 6D’s as a rookie (more on the definition of a rookie later) and I don’t think he’s got enough offense to earn his keep and be a negative defensively.
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2013: 11
- Winter 2013: 7
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING THIS SEASON
- MacT: “I describe him as a guy who really makes good purposeful quick decisions with the puck. He really moves the puck up ice quickly. He doesn’t look for too many more options. That’s what stood out about him. He’s strong and physical on the boards. He battles hard … shoots the puck well so he’s got a chance. The game is a little quicker here on the smaller ice. That will be an adjustment for him, but a really impressive guy.”
- Eakins on Belov: “I thought he’d probably have an off night and he didn’t, I thought he was solid. We’re going to have to play him a fair amount without killing him, first impression was okay.” (September)
There’s no guarantee Belov will sign with Edmonton, but I think he’s proven enough at this point we should assume the club would like to retain his services. If we guess they’ll keep Ference and Belov from the left side group currently (Nick Schultz and Ladislav Smid before Laddy was sent away), that gives them room to add a #1D and Darnell Nurse to the left side, like this:
- Eric Brewer 2004—Jeff Petry
- Anton Belov—Justin Schultz
- Darnell Nurse—Andrew Ference
Belov’s pending free agency means there is some question about his future, but I’m content in placing him here. The kids who are behind him are all miles from the NHL (save one) and despite their potential are not a sure thing in any way. Anton Belov’s 22 games currently will trump most of the prospects behind him on my list.
WHY IN HELL IS HE LISTED ANYWAY?
On all of the lists save this one, Belov is not considered a prospect. I respect that, the NHL definition of a rookie is very specific and Belov doesn’t qualify. I just don’t buy into it, for me Belov’s NHL debut can be called something else if you wish but he’s still new to the league and as such should be considered a prospect. Fernando Pisani was 26 or damn near when he made his NHL debut, but the NHL considered him a rookie. Was Pisani less able to deal with NHL players than Belov? Make I ask why?
Anton Belov’s status as a Calder-eligible is silly enough, but for me to treat his NHL debut as something aside from a prospect—despite his age—seems unfair. The NHL can go ahead and make sure their precious award doesn’t go to the next Makarov, but excluding Belov from this conversation avoids an area of procurement that is very valuable.
And omits his accomplishment from the game’s history. The NHL doesn’t care about their own history, it is left to us to make sure that men like Anton Belov are noted for their first season impact.
He’s on the list.