With another season in the books and the summer dawning, we are now starting our look at the current ACTIVE Oilers roster, from A to Z. We will assess each player’s season, their outlook for returning to the team and where their future likely lies.
We start the profiles with defenseman Anton Belov. Brought over from the KHL by Craig Mactavish last summer, Belov had been heralded as one of the best, if not the best, d-man in the Kontinental Hockey League. On paper, it didn’t seem like a huge stretch for Belov to make a small transition and start tearing it up over here as well. As we all know, however, the ice surface out east is much larger, which led to struggles for the import player, adjusting to the lack of space, coupled with the speed and aggressiveness of the NHL game.
See his stats card below (from Hockeydb.com):
In 57 games, Belov wasn’t able to provide a ton of offence. With only seven points and 34 penalty minutes, he didn’t end up as the dominant defenseman many were hoping for. Naturally, it begs to be asked whether the system employed this year (and in year’s previous) works for the inexperienced crew in Edmonton. Regardless, it took time to acclimate for Belov, with any forward progress slowed by his injuries over the season.
It’s fairly clear Belov will not likely develop into a top 4 defenseman, which is what the Oilers so dearly need. It’s not all dark clouds and hailstorms with Anton Belov. Like much of the young group this year, Belov settled down a bit as the year progressed, ending up with a Corsi rating on par (vs. some competition) with Justin Schultz. According to David Staples at the Cult of Hockey, Belov faired best against middle of the road competition when it came to blocking shots and causing missed ones. But, when the top competition was on the ice, he was one of the weakest players on the ice, allowing too many chances for the opposition. On the other hand, Belov also was right in there statistically with others on the team, and on most nights outperformed Nick Schultz, who was traded at the deadline.
One cannot put too much stock on how Belov rates among the Oilers other defenseman. Justin Schultz seems to be following the curve many expected, and is growing in all areas of his game. Belov is better now than he was earlier in the season, and is a gangsight better than Mark Fraser, who brings size and not much else. He could be an option for a seventh defenseman come next season, but with free agency, the draft and the summer trade season upon us that could spell his exit back home.
OIL ON WHYTE OUTLOOK: Back to the KHL by Training Camp.
UPDATE: Belov has signed a contract in the KHL with the SKA organization. Obviously, Belov saw the writing on the wall.