The Russians Are Coming!

 

THE OILERS’ PAST: WHERE ARE THE RUSSIANS?

Back in August, I had the opportunity to contribute to Puck Daddy’s National Hockey League of Nations. In the post, I selected the best former or current Oiler from each hockey country.

While working on this project, I discovered that there really isn’t a slam dunk choice for Russia. In the end, Nail Yakupov was my selection–even though he’s been an Oiler for only 48 games. This is what I wrote on Yakupov:

Throughout their history, the Oilers have lacked a Russian star (unless you count Nikolai Khabibulin, and, if you do, you’re insane). But that began to change last season when Yakupov burst onto the scene. The Twitter sensation led all NHL rookies in scoring and also gave us one of the all-time best goal celebrations. However, Yakupov didn’t get a spot on the All-Rookie Team because, as Mark Spector will tell you, goals in the last three games don’t count.

Some people didn’t think Yakupov deserved to be named the top Russian Oiler. Maybe you agree with my critics. But who else would you choose? Here are the Russians who have played at least 50 games with the Oilers: Boris Mironov (320), Denis Grebeshkov (190), Andrei Kovalenko (176), Igor Ulanov (160), Igor Kravchuk (160), Nikolai Khabibulin (117), Anatoli Semenov (116), Alexei Semenov (103), and Alexander Selivanov (96). I’m content with my choice of Yakupov–even if it’s more about potential than results.

 

THE OILERS’ PRESENT: THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!

Since the 2012 draft, the Oilers have added six Russians: Yakupov, Daniil Zharkov, Anton Belov, Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, and Denis Grebeshkov. Perhaps we should start calling Edmonton “Moscow West.”

PLAYER

POS

AGE

HT

WT

ACQUIRED

Nail Yakupov

RW

19

5-11

189

2012 Draft (#1)
Daniil Zharkov

LW

19

6-4

212

2012 Draft (#91)
Bogdan Yakimov

C

18

6-5

202

2013 Draft (#83)
Anton Slepyshev

LW

19

6-2

187

2013 Draft (#88)
Anton Belov

D

27

6-3

185

Free Agent (June 2013)
Denis Grebeshkov

D

29

6-0

209

Free Agent (July 2013)

Why have the Oilers recently signed and drafted so many Russians? Perhaps Craig MacTavish is using a Moneyball approach to team-building–taking advantage of the reluctance of other teams to acquire Russians due to the fear that a Russian player might end up preferring to play in the KHL. If this is MacTavish’s strategy, I believe it’s a very smart one.

The two free agent pickups (Belov and Grebeshkov) are currently in the Oilers’ training camp, while the three (non-Yakupov) draft picks (Zharkov, Slepyshev, and Yakimov) are playing in the KHL. Over the next few days, I’ll be doing a post on each of these five Russians.

Topics: Anton Belov, Anton Slepyshev, Bogdan Yakimov, Daniil Zharkov, Denis Grebeshkov, Edmonton Oilers, Nail Yakupov, NHL, The Russians Are Coming!

Want more from Oil On Whyte?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.

TEAMFeed More Oilers news from the Fansided Network

Hot on the Web From golf.com