When the news of Anton Slepyshev’s availability in trade was distributed indiscreetly to Oilers fans on Tuesday, few could have been surprised. But more than a few (including myself) were likely disappointed. For a team in search of speed, size, and value, Slepyshev seemed to have the potential to check off all the boxes.
Drafted in the third round of the 2013 entry draft, Slepy showed potential from the start. Playing with the big boys in the KHL as a teenager, Slepyshev was one of Russia’s leaders on their 2013 and 2014 U20 WJC team. At the 2014 WJC he scored at a point per game rate and paced Russia to a bronze medal that year vs the top U20 talent in the world.
Unlike some young prospects, Anton didn’t seem to be in a rush to the big league. He spent two more years in the KHL before coming over to take a crack at the NHL. When he arrived, Mclellan seemed impressed, commenting on the professional edge he held over some of the other rookies. However, not long after making the team, Slepyshev was sent down to Bakersfield, a move that didn’t take long . . . it doesn’t appear patience is a virtue with Mclellan.
After spending the balance of the year with Bakersfield (scoring 13 ginos in 49 games) he re-joined the Oilers for the balance of the 2017 season, providing some timely scoring in the playoffs on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic. Big things were expected of Slepy in the 2017-18 season, the P.O.H himself even said so . . . so what went wrong.
Two things: The player got injured and his progress lost momentum, and, he was not put in a position to succeed. Anton Slepyshev is not a fourth line player, nor should he be. For velocity and accuracy, his wrist shot is the best on the team, and he was never shy about using it. Slepy also had no issues going to the front of the net, with speed and purpose. But he was never going to accomplish anything on the fourth line, and he didn’t. On the brief moments he spent next to the Nuge he looked good. But he was never again put on a line with Draisaitl and Lucic . . . save 19 seconds according to Bruce McCurdy.
So within a matter of months the Oilers have devalued a prospect from one with clearly demonstrated potential, to whatever the NHL’s equivalent of a bag of pucks would be (see Nail Yakupov trade). The situation is both puzzling and frustrating to watch. But it’s not a story we haven’t seen before. Even before the decade of darkness, the Oilers had a habit of shipping prospects off prematurely and letting other teams reap the benefits. Interestingly Slepyshev would have a few close compatibles from Oilers’ past.
Oilers Have a Long History of Downtrading
Martin Gelinas: Although Gelinas was not drafted by the Oilers (selected 7th overall in the 1988 entry draft by LA), they were his first NHL organization as he came over in the now infamous Wayne Gretzky trade. Gelinas established himself as a member of the kid line in the Oilers’ last successful cup run in 1990 showing speed and some offense. Gelinas followed up with 20 goals in his first full season with the Oil in 1990 – 91. Nonetheless, he often drew the ire of then head coach John Muckler and was eventually traded by Glen Sather for rugged forward Scott Pearson in a trade with the Quebec Nordiques. Gelinas would go on to have a successful NHL career, scoring 660 points over 18 NHL seasons. And Scott Pearson? If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it shouldn’t: Pearson scored 98 NHL points and spent most of his pro career as a minor-leaguer.
Miroslav Satan: Drafted 111th overall in 1993 out of Slovakia, Satan showed an early scoring touch for the Oilers, notching 18 goals in 64 games in his 1994 rookie season. 1994, part of the first dark era in Edmonton Oiler history. Satan showed good potential, however was traded by then Oiler GM Glen Sather in his second season to the Buffalo Sabres for Craig Millar and Brian Moore . . .. Satan would go on to score 30 plus goals in four seasons including a 40 goal campaign in 1998 – 99, mostly with Buffalo. Craig Millar and Barrie Moore combined would not play in 40 NHL games . . .
Kyle Brodziak: Something of a local boy hailing from St. Paul, Ab., Brodziak was drafted 214th overall in 2003. Brodziak cracked the big club in 2008, scoring 14 and 11 goals in his first two seasons respectively, playing mostly on the bottom six. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for then GM Steve Tambellini as he traded Brodziak (under the advice of then coach MacT) plus a 6th round pick, to Minnesota for a fourth and fifth in the 2009 entry draft. Brodziak remains a productive player, providing equal parts grit and scoring, currently with St. Louis Blues. For the picks Edmonton received in the trade, the Oilers landed . . . Linus Omark, who is no longer in the NHL, and never made an impact.
So how will Slepyshev develop as a player? My guess is somewhere between Gelinas and Brodziak, closer to Gelinas. He has a better shot than Gelinas but isn’t as fast. I would rate his hockey sense as average at best, but he has the skills, and over time he will learn how to use them. My guess is, he will develop into at 15 goal 40 point guy if he sees consistent ice time on the top nine.
Now, I don’t have a direct line to Chiarelli’s office so, maybe this move was prompted by Slepyshev demanding a trade. Possibly. But based on what we know, Slepshev’s imminent departure is spurred by player mismanagement by the coach. And what will the Oilers receive in return? With the way Chia desperately advertised the player, I don’t see any team rushing to offer a prospect or a pick in the top three rounds. The Oilers will likely receive a career AHL player, or a pick no earlier than the fifth round. And why would we expect anything different? With respect to Oiler asset management, it seems to be a long tradition.