Rambler's Top100

Edmonton Oilers' Slepyshev taking big strides toward an NHL job
28/09/2015/ By Jim Matheson, Edmonton Journal

Saskatoon English words are a problem for Russian winger Anton Slepyshev, who is stickhandling around the language at his first National Hockey League training camp, but so are numbers.

Slepyshev scored the overtime game-winner in Winnipeg on Friday, capping a comeback from a 3-0 deficit, and banged in another goal against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday off a sweet Leon Draisaitl feed. Hes making a strong case for NHL employment with the Edmonton Oilers but there are only 12 forward positions up for grabs in the starting lineup. Where does he fit?

The former Russian world junior team captain is very close to being NHL ready because hes got a mans body (217 pounds), even though hes still only 21, and hes also got an NHL shot and an ability to get open to use it.

But hes got a two-way contract, which means hes easy to send to the American Hockey League Bakersfield farm team, and he doesnt really fit as a fourth-line banger, so he pretty much has to make the top nine forwards to stick.

If Teddy Purcell, who is out with an undetermined injury and hasnt played an exhibition game yet, isnt 100 per cent in two weeks when the seasons starts, maybe Slepyshev who fit seamlessly with Draisaitl and Connor McDavid against the Wild could take his spot in the lineup. But Purcell is only out day-to-day, according to coach Todd McLellan, although those day-to-days are now adding up to more than a week on the shelf.

Draisaitl set up two goals with nice passes while playing right-wing, McDavid had an assist and was a threat on half a dozen shifts with his speed and Slepyshev, the third-round 2013 draft pick, quietly did what he does best: used his size along the boards, as did all three on the cycle.

Slepyshev has moved throughout the lineup in pre-season with checkers and skill guys.

He has the ability to play a heavy game and use his shot, said McLellan. Hes played with speed guys and with grinders hes getting better night after night and hes really opening the coaches eyes.

Were excited to have him in the organization.

Is he close to being an NHLer?

Right now hes pushing people, said McLellan.

Slepyshev, through translator Nail Yakupov, said the back-to-back games this weekend were a grind physically but he was rewarded for his strong play in Winnipeg and the OT winner with a spot alongside McDavid as Taylor Hall was a healthy scratch on Saturday against Minnesota.

He didnt let the opportunity go to waste. His training camp performance so far is two thumbs way up. The games have been hard, but Im trying to listen and get my English going, said Slepyshev. I never flew and played a game the same day (as he did on Friday for the Winnipeg game).

He was one of five players Draisaitl, Rob Klinkhammer, Andrew Miller and Tyler Pitlick to suit up against the Jets, then the Wild, just 21 hours apart.

It was great playing with Connor. All you have to do with him is find an area and put your stick down, said Slepyshev, who rushed to the blue paint early in the game and just missed a tap-in goal off a McDavid seeing-eye relay.

You have to be 100-per-cent focused on Connor because hes always going to give you the puck. You have to be ready all the time. He finds everybody, said Slepyshev.

Draisaitl was no slouch either.

That line was the most dangerous on the rink, said McLellan.

Leon on his backhand was really good; wing might be the best place for him (there is less skating than at centre, coming back deep defensively), said McLellan. We rolled four lines for most of the game (against Minnesota) but when we went to three, Connor looked better hes played a lot as a junior and he probably plays better when hes used more. Pretty exciting when Connor gets the puck.

" "


"¨ " @ c 1997