Quick Drop: Big Yak and Leon


Apr 8, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche sticks wait on the bench prior to their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

In an ideal scenario, the Oilers would have 2 proven NHL veterans covering the second and third slots at center while every rookie in the system would go to either Junior or minor pro to hone their skills. As we know, this will not be the case come first day of the regular season. It does not matter why, what matters is that the organization has made the decision to go ahead and fill those spots with in-house personnel. That is the reality. Enter the Yak vs Leon conversation. The depth chart will feature Nugent-Hopkins in the first line and Boyd Gordon in a newly minted “defensive line” as MacTavish said on his Canada Day press conference:

"We’ve talked about how we want to build our team going forward. We want three offensive lines and we want a line, probably centered by Boyd Gordon, that can start much like Chicago is built, that you have another line that you can start predominantly in the defensive zone. Then you’ve got three possession lines, or three lines that you can count on for offence."

Unless something really impressive happens at training camp, I see Arcobello surpassing Lander for one of the 2 available center spots. As our editor Dave Mallett pointed in his article, Yakimov has been the main story out of the Young Stars tournament in Penticton B.C. He is not only big, he is imposing at 6’5 and 236 lbs.

If we use Vollman’s NHL equivalencies (one of the more simple methods out there and one that is constantly updated) to predict the offensive output of both Draisaitl and Yakimov we get the following:

Vollman’s NHL per 82 games.G (E. Strenght)APLeague
Leon Draisaitl8.322.330.6WHL
Bogdan Yakimov11.69.721.3KHL

Leon projects with a few less goals but still about 10 points over Yakimov. However, even though I adjusted for even strength goals, I could not figure out how many assists came from the PP in Leon’s case. Even by ignoring this, once we adjust for TOI, it won’t matter for the point I am trying to make.

Now the WHL does not keep time on ice (TOI) so I can not tell exactly how much on average Leon played, but since he was the number one scorer on the team by over 30 points, it is a reasonable supposition to say that he played at the very least about 15 minutes of even strength hockey. Yakimov’s average TOI was 9:55. I figured most of it must have come on even strength since he was used mostly as a fourth liner.

When we adjust for TOI, we get an interesting shift:

Vollman’s NHL per 82 games.G (E. Strenght)APLeague
Leon Draisaitl8.322.330.6WHL
Bogdan Yakimov17.414.732.1KHL

Now Yakimov projects with twice as many goals and about the same in total points. If both players project about the same points, then what other factors should be taken into consideration? Let’s see:

Size: No contest, Big Yak blocks out the sun.

Maturity: Big Yak is one year older, has already played pro hockey against men in the second best league on the planet.

Benefit of going to a lower league: If plan b is to send Leon back to Junior, he will be back on familiar ground, he would not have to learn a new game and could focus on sharpening his skill set. It certainly didn’t hurt last year’s 3rd overall. In Yakimov’s case, he will have to learn a new game whether he goes to OKC or stays here, there really isn’t much difference in his case.

For those worried about a repeat of the Belov experience, this situation is entirely different. Eakins is no longer a rookie coach so hopefully he won’t carry out systems seemingly named after superpowers of Japanese anime characters. Yakimov is not going to slot into a mess of a group like Belov did with the Lego D corps of last season and he won’t be asked to do the impossible. Yakimov will not (hopefully) suffer the wrath of the swarm like Belov had to.

Yakimov has had months to familiarize himself with everything Oilers while Belov came in a rush, stressed after a long, long journey and it seemed he never had time to rest up and get himself physically and mentally ready. Yakimov is young and easier to teach than an older Belov who had already developed a style of play, had a newborn baby and maybe wasn’t here 100%. And there is also a superb defensive teacher this time around in Craig Ramsey.

Who makes for worst PR if they struggle: If Yakimov struggles, the media and the fans will be far more forgiving than if they see a 3rd overall crumble under the pressure.

For all the above reasons, I believe, all things staying equal, that the best thing for the Edmonton Oilers is to keep Bogdan Yakimov as a third line center along with Arcobello on the second line and send Draisaitl back to junior. Specially when there is very little chance of the team making the postseason.

One last important thing, as I understand it, if Leon is sent back without playing 10 NHL games, his contract slides and doesn’t kick in for at least another season, thus not counting against the 50 man reserve list. Yakimov’s entry-level contract starts this year whether he plays down at OKC or stays here in Edmonton.