If you’re not familiar with the name Ziyat Paigin, you’re not alone. The 21-year-old Russian defenseman who was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round (209th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft as an overage player is as far from a household name as it gets. But that could soon change.
After going undrafted in 2013 and 2014, the Oilers decided to take a flyer on Paigin last summer, most likely because of his mammoth 6-foot-6, 209-pound frame. A worthwhile gamble on a seventh round selection. And it’s starting to look more and more like GM Peter Chiarelli’s gamble will pay off for the Oilers.
The Penza, Russia native had an underwhelming rookie campaign with Bars Kazan in the KHL, tallying just two points in 33 games in 2014-15. However, Paigin took his game to another level in his second professional season, registering nine goals and 27 points in 33 games this season and was named a league all-star.
Internationally, Paigin represented Russia at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, taking home a silver medal. In the Gold Medal Game, Paigin and the Russians suffered a heartbreaking loss to Canada and potential future Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse. He also skated for the Russian Selects in the 2014 Subway Series against the CHL All-Stars.
The young defenseman owns a powerful slap shot, isn’t afraid of the rough stuff on the ice and plays a responsible defensive game. He also has great size, is an excellent skater and moves the puck well (exactly the type of defender the Oilers need) he could stand to shoot the puck more, and although he may lack elite offensive potential, has clearly made strides in that area of his game, too.
Paigin is signed with Bars Kazan through the 2016-17 season, so Oilers fans won’t see him play at Rogers Place for at least another year. A raw talent, it is likely that he will need some time in the AHL to fully adjust to the North American game.
To this point, he only has seven games of experience on the smaller rink, which he gained in the World Juniors 16 months ago. He projects in the range of a No. 4-6 defenceman at the NHL level and could turn out to be a steal for the Oilers as a seventh-round pick if he pans out.