Adding a 6’4 center to the Oilers roster next year makes a lot of sense. I’m just not sure that guy should be BogdanYakimov. Word out of Russia this morning is that the Oilers 3rd Round pick from the 2013 amateur draft will leave the KHL behind this season, and instead ply his trade in North America. Make no mistake about it: this decision only came after extensive discussions with Craig MacTavish. The question is: Where, exactly, did those discussions lead?
My guess is that the Oilers have told Yakimov that he has a legitimate shot at making the parent club out of camp. Why else would the kid’s agent turn down what had to be pretty decent money in the KHL? I doubt it was so his client could play in the AHL. If Edmonton is indeed his destination, then where does this guy (potentially) slot in?
First, look at the player. He’s a legit big center, with good skills on the dot, very good hands, and is strong on the possession game. He scored 7 times in 33 KHL games last season, which is not bad at all for a rookie. He also has a responsible defensive consciousness somewhat rare for a player of his age (20).
But if you watched him at all at World Juniors, then you will already know his Achilles heel: Speed, or lack thereof. That in itself is not necessarily fatal, after all neither Anton Lander nor Mark Arcobello is exceptionally fast. And as the roster sits today, at least, those guys are his main competition.
The only two absolute locks at center this year are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Boyd Gordon. I’m also anticipating the market for Sam Gagner to be soft, this Spring, and I would not be at all surprised to see him back in the Copper & Blue, too. Until he’s traded, at the very least, you need to factor him in.
That, then, would point toward a 4C opportunity for Yakimov, at best. That’s not a bad fit, really. Less pressure on the kid, not a lot of hard minutes, and more than likely he would be paired with players comparable in foot speed.
I’ll also point toward Dallas Eakins’ non-committal comments at the end of the season, in regards to Anton Lander. I really don’t see Lander being a key part of the recipe next season. That leaves Yakimov battling Arcobello.
Whenever I’ve said “The Oilers need a center North of 6’2”, I was quite transparently thinking an established veteran. Even Leon Draisaitl, if the Oilers end up with him after the draft, is 2 inches smaller and 2 years younger than Bogdan Yakimov.
It would make more sense for MacTavish to sign a big UFA center, and send the kid to OKC and let him work on his skating. But now we’re back to where we started: Why would Yakimov agree to come to North America now?
The plot thickens.