On Saturday night, Oilers winger Anton Slepyshev notched two assists as the Oilers beat the Stars 5-2.
The Russian winger has looked very good so far this season. While he has just three points in nine games, he’s also been playing just 11 minutes per night. Slepyshev has cracked the NHL lineup out of training camp both years he’s been in North America. He was sent down after 11 games last season, and struggled a bit in the AHL. However, he appears to be one of those players who plays well against better competition and doesn’t bring his best against lower tiers of competition. Because coach Todd McLellan clearly likes his game, Slepyshev appears poised to be a future tough and versatile middle-six forward.
It’s fascinating to look back at the series of trades that lead to Slepyshev being drafted by Edmonton.
It was the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft. The Edmonton Oilers were set to pick 37th overall, and had their eye on prospect goalie Zachary Fucale. Unfortunately for new GM Craig MacTavish, the Montreal Canadiens selected Fucale one pick before.
Their player gone, the Oilers then made a series of trades to move down in the draft, and turned that one second round pick into a two third round picks and three fourth round picks.
They traded pick 37 to Los Angeles for picks 57, 88, and 96. MacTavish turned around and traded pick 57 to St. Louis for picks 83, 94, and 113.
Slepyshev was in his second year of eligibility, but was ranked 17th in his draft year and 45th in his second go-round by Corey Pronman. Pronman described him this way:
He is an above-average skater, with agility and free movement, as his shiftiness makes him hard to check. He has a plus shot and he knows it, as his mentality is often shoot-first, even from distance. He can still make plays, and he does not have tunnel vision, but his playmaking skills are not his best element. His physical game has progressed, and he has added strength since last season. He can protect pucks moderately well. He will display physical effort, although it could be better at times. He also needs to work on his defensive game.
It’s likely the “Russian Factor” lead to Slepyshev being passed over, in addition to the fact he had only scored 24 points in 101 KHL games before being drafted. He broke out the next year, however. He scored 25 points in 58 games and signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers shortly after Peter Chiarelli took over. TSN analyst and former NHLer Ray Ferraro called Slepyshev “a player… He’s not a 3 years in the AHL project.”
Yakimov is a 6’5 center who showed promise but also some inconsistency. He’s in the final year of his entry-level contract and currently on loan to the KHL. It seems unlikely he will return to North America; he returned to the KHL despite having a big chance to make the Oilers with their top three centers at the World Cup. Instead, rookie Drake Caggiula made the team and is playing out of position at center.
Platzer was drafted out of the London Knights, and was pigeon-holed as a checking center there. He was traded to Owen Sound for his last year-and-a-half of his OHL career, and exploded for 100 points in his 95 games with the Attack. He’s slowly gaining a foothold in the AHL and looks like he could turn out to be a solid bottom-six penalty killer and two-way forward.
As far as the other two players acquired: Houck never cracked the point-per-game level in junior, went unsigned by the Oilers, and is currently playing in the ECHL; Muir is playing Div. 1 college hockey. Neither man appears likely to make the NHL in any meaningful capacity.
The player Edmonton originally wanted, Fucale, has struggled mightily post-draft, and is looking more and more like a bust. Los Angeles selected Valentin Zykov at 37, and the Blues picked William Carrier at 57. The Blues traded Carrier at the 2014 trade deadline to Buffalo as part of a package for Ryan Miller, while Zykov was traded at the 2016 deadline with a 5th round pick for Kris Versteeg. Zykov has 23 points in 59 AHL games, and needs to have a bounce-back season this year to continue to be considered a legit NHL prospect. Carrier has 55 points over 126 AHL games and made his NHL debut this season.
MacTavish was widely panned for a variety of unsuccessful roster moves and poor asset management, but this trade, his first, can likely be considered a success.
Three-plus years after the trade, it’s interesting to look back at these kinds of trades and see how things work out. Most insiders agree that the NHL Draft is something of a crapshoot; just look at Pro Hockey Rumors’ re-draft of the 2005 NHL Draft where there are some tremendous players picked long after after some serious busts.