Valeri Nichushkin just did the Edmonton Oilers a big favour

Jonathan Willis
May 22 2013 11:02AM

The x-factor at the top end of the draft this year was, without question, the status of Russian prospect Valeri Nichushkin. Playing in the KHL and under contract for time to come, there were significant red flags for any NHL team interested in picking a guy who most rate with the top four (Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov) in terms of talent.

Nichushkin made it easier for everybody today by telling a Russian newspaper he’s leaving the KHL for the NHL next year, and further that his team, Moscow Dynamo, was willing to release him from his contract. In so doing, he also made the draft much more interesting for the Edmonton Oilers.

Nichushkin’s Comments

Via the delightful Google Translate, here are Nichushkin’s comments about leaving:

I had already decided that leave in the NHL - said Nichushkin. - In the" Dynamo "calmly reacted to this: I was told that I could leave if I want. No legal problems there. Contract with" Dinamo "will terminate, and I'm going free agent. was lucky that I went to the club to make concessions. We agreed that they would let me go, but if the ocean something goes wrong, I'm right back to them.

It’s always a little dicey using Google Translate to find out what Europeans are saying in the European press, but the message here seems clear enough: Nichushkin wants to play in the NHL next year, Dynamo is okay with that, and he’ll only be back in the KHL next year if he doesn’t make a major league roster.

Later in the piece, Nichushkin specifically mentions Tampa Bay and Carolina as teams with possible interest in him. Tampa Bay isn’t a big surprise – Al Murray, their director of scouting, raves about Nichushkin – but Carolina hasn’t drafted a Russian in ages, and certainly not so early. Talent-wise, it’s understandable why the Hurricanes would be interested, though.

The Situation

The top tier of the draft at this point is basically the five names above, but Nichushkin had major slide potential given his contract status in the KHL. After those five, Elias Lindholm is generally seen as the consensus number six, Sean Monahan the number seven, and then a group of defencemen (Darnell Nurse, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen) and winger Hunter Shinkaruk.

The Oilers are rumoured to be after centre Sean Monahan, but prior to today perhaps the most likely scenario was the top four being drafted in order, followed by Lindholm, followed by Monahan, leaving the Oilers with a choice between Nichushkin and a bunch of blueliners.

Now, not only is it more likely that the Oilers still have the option of picking Monahan when pick number seven rolls around, but if Nichushkin somehow does slide he should be more attractive both to them (long-term, a 6’4” winger with high-end talent certainly could be a fit on the Oilers’ depth chart) and to other teams if they decide to trade the pick down as general manager Craig MacTavish has suggested.

All in all, this is a very good day for Edmonton.

Streakcred

Don't forget that it's never too late to play StreakCred - the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

One of the things that's always fun to watch for is good young players falling out of favour in other NHL cities. That's exactly what Thomas Drance is doing and in Three Young Forwards the Canucks Should Target he identifies a trio of talented young players that might be ripe for trade:

Trading for former first round picks is demonstrably a risky game, but it's a risky game the Canucks should be willing to try their hand at this summer. Here's a list of three young forwards, with top-ten pick pedigree who, for whatever reason, appear to have fallen out of favour within their organizations. These players won't come free, or even cheap, but could help the Canucks jump-start a youth movement going forward.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some recent pieces here at Oilers Nation:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 steelymac
May 22 2013, 12:47PM
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Man I love the way that guy drives to the net MPS should watch the video.

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#52 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 12:48PM
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RomZ wrote:

JW,

Would you rank Valeri talent wise ahead of Barkov?

People would put Valeri ahead of Barkov as of right NOW because he is playing better, but thats only because Barkov has just started to scratch the surface with his talent, and he is younger.

Valeri knows how to use his size better than Barkov, and plays like a more confident player. Barkov is more of a complete player, where as Nichuskin is the typical power forward and only seems to be good off the rush driving to the net.

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#53 RomZ
May 22 2013, 12:52PM
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@OilersBrass

If either of them fell to us that would be a good problem to have a solid 2-way center or a big bruising power forward that can strike fear into team defences

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#54 striker777
May 22 2013, 12:54PM
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A dumb GM will trade down such a high pick; a smart GM will try to move up. This Nichushkin kid is exactly what Oilers need: a big body that loves going to the net and bang other bodies. This kid has a lot of skill. I'd rather have VN than McKinnon.

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#55 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 12:57PM
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RomZ wrote:

If either of them fell to us that would be a good problem to have a solid 2-way center or a big bruising power forward that can strike fear into team defences

Definitely, and drafting wise these two players are exactly what the Oilers should be dreaming for. Haha just sucks that they're literally 1 and 2 spots away from the Oilers grasp.

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#56 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 01:07PM
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RomZ wrote:

Well heres hoping peter griffin, and the flames faithful pull another jankowski out of their proverbial hat come draft day

Flames management would be silly enough to draft their precious Taylor Cammarata 6th overall.

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#57 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 01:41PM
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Smokey wrote:

Barkov falling to seventh is a dream senario. Im not convinced there is any difference in talent from McKinnon, Drouin, or Barkov. The only way I'd see him drop would be a bad performance at the Combine or someone said he competes like Grigorenko. Neither would happen. I think the news just tells us we will get Monahan, Lindholm, or the Big N. Oilers pick at seven will get a ton of interest from other teams. If the Oilers aren't convinced that Monahan or Lindholm are not much better then Horvat or Lazar and were willing to trade down I'd want to know what other asset they could get?

Barkov isn't going to the combine, he's having surgery. Same with Darnell Nurse.

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#58 RK
May 22 2013, 02:58PM
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Smokey wrote:

Barkov falling to seventh is a dream senario. Im not convinced there is any difference in talent from McKinnon, Drouin, or Barkov. The only way I'd see him drop would be a bad performance at the Combine or someone said he competes like Grigorenko. Neither would happen. I think the news just tells us we will get Monahan, Lindholm, or the Big N. Oilers pick at seven will get a ton of interest from other teams. If the Oilers aren't convinced that Monahan or Lindholm are not much better then Horvat or Lazar and were willing to trade down I'd want to know what other asset they could get?

If you read I said he could fall to 5 th or 6th. I never said 7th

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#59 Will
May 22 2013, 02:58PM
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Trade Gagner for help on D, sign Antripov as a UFA for his stop gap replacement for 3 years. Draft Valari. Create Russian Dynamo line that eats soft competition.

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#60 FSD
May 22 2013, 02:59PM
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AV should coach Edmonton. Now that he has been fired

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#61 bwar
May 22 2013, 03:16PM
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In my eyes that gap between the 5th pick and the 7th is vast. I would like to think that something similar to the Kessel deal could be made to move up essentially the fifth overall for two 1st and a 2nd. Don't know if thats a price Oilers would even consider paying since they've already discussed potentially moving down.

To me the Oilers should be targeting one exceptional player from the draft who can potentially play in the NHL this season, even if it costs. The rebuild needs to end and honestly I think the team is a few tweaks away from being in the playoffs. I really hope Mac T is able to work a little bit of magic this off season.

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#62 bwar
May 22 2013, 03:50PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

The rebuild doesn't end by drafting kids.

Draft the oldest player available then, maybe some dude with a nice beard or something. Also the end of the rebuild comment was attached to my feelings about the Oilers be a few moves away from being a playoff team, not just drafting one kid then raising the cup. I would rather that we move up and get someone who can make our team better right now as opposed to moving back and getting two guys who may or may not help the team out eventually.

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#63 RK
May 22 2013, 03:53PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

Interesting.

Tuesday: Dynamo's head coach says Nichushkin, and others, aren't guaranteed roster spots, and that they'll have to earn them.

Wednesday: Nichushkin announces he's terminated his KHL contract and is headed to the NHL.

Something fishy is going on there. Not too ecstatic about the possibility of nabbing this kid at 7.

I agree with you when has the KHL acted reasonably ever. There is more to this story. That said I would take Nichushkin after due diligence .

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#64 Quicksilver ballet
May 22 2013, 04:12PM
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OilersBrass wrote:

What makes you think all of: Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Petry, N.Schultz, Marincin, Musil, Gagner, Gernat, and Hemsky are all available?

I know, the same 26 letters over and over again. The only thing I care about is the order in which we see these letters presented. As long as they don't fall in any of these particular order Hall,Hopkins,Eberle,Yakupov,J.Schultz. If they're not on this list, they're up for grabs if it brings MacKinnon or Barkov to town. Support players out, for another chance at a difference maker.

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#65 Walter Sobchak
May 22 2013, 04:20PM
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OilersBrass wrote:

What makes you think all of: Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Petry, N.Schultz, Marincin, Musil, Gagner, Gernat, and Hemsky are all available?

What makes you think there not?

30 - 30 - 29 - 24.....Everyone is available, even the kids to some extent.

Mac-t "begrudgingly would part with them"

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#66 bwar
May 22 2013, 04:25PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

I get what you were saying. But even the top picks need time to become real difference makers in the NHL.

They may score at a decent pace but via sheltered minutes. Guys like Crosby and Ovechkin made a real difference in their rookie seasons. It's not likely to happen with any of the kids in this year's draft.

The rebuild (hopefully) ended when Tambellini was let go. Move up or down or stay put in the draft, it doesn't matter. Just draft smart and don't sit on your hands like Tambellini.

If nothing changes on the roster besides adding someone via the draft, that player, assuming they make the roster, should be in a position to be playing on the third or forth line. We aren't expecting a Crosby or Ovechkin at 7 but I don't think a guy who can fill a role, learn, and develop in the bottom six is unreasonable. I think the talent at the top of this draft is close to being NHL ready, maybe not top line ready but hopefully good enough to keep a Belanger off the roster. Think like a Sean Couturier, pretty much the third line center for his rookie year. Wasn't expected to be the teams savior but was able to step in and contribute right away.

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#67 Walter Sobchak
May 22 2013, 04:35PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

~Especially not with Weber here.~

No,No you have your numbers mixed up Wax Man!

once we get rid of some dead weight.

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#68 Smokey
May 22 2013, 04:56PM
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Say the Oiler were dealing Yakupov for 2nd or 3rd pick. Would you do it if your target was McKinnon or Druin or Barkov? I've wondered how Yakupov would do in this years draft. I think he would go 3rd or 4rth.

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#69 WhattaMike
May 22 2013, 05:21PM
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Pending how the 2013-14 draft is, why not yhe Oilers make a move up with Nashville or Carolina......by putting Hemsky or Gagner into the trade offer, with one of either Gernat, Marancin, or Musil....and next by year's (2013-14) 1st rounder?

The Oil then can hypothetically get Nichushkin at #4 or #5, then at #7 be smart to have Monahan or Lindholm....or then even one of Nurse, Zadorov or Pulock.

There is absolutely no need to worry of next year's pick with all these kids we have.

The bottom six, two defenceman, one 1A type goalie, can easily be taken in UFA deals, offer sheets (maybe, pending using next year's pick already), or traded for with other assets (MPS, Lander, Hartikainen, etc)

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#70 Smokey
May 22 2013, 05:22PM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

So you'd trade an established first overall pick scorer for a player one year behind in development? Are you kidding me?

Its a fair question. I'd take Jones or McKinnon over Yakupov. Barkov and Drouin are arguably as good. Last year was a weaker draft. If McKinnon.serves your needs better long term I think its foolish not to concider.

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#71 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 05:23PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

What makes you think there not?

30 - 30 - 29 - 24.....Everyone is available, even the kids to some extent.

Mac-t "begrudgingly would part with them"

You guys say how the Oilers desperately need D, so if that's true then why would they trade their D core? Especially the prospects who will most likely be the future of the team.

You guys know the Oilers got into this whole mess by being impatient and doing exactly what you suggested, trading away their core for a quick fix right?.... The quick "fixes" didn't even end up wanting to be in Edmonton, and they basically wasted away the team for nothing.

I know management is a joke, but I would like to think they learned from their last mistake.

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#72 Smokey
May 22 2013, 05:30PM
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tsg wrote:

I think people have a tendency to underestimate just how good Yakupov is.

He led the team in goal scoring.

He scored at a full season pace of approximately 30 goals in his rookie season.

He did this while often playing 3rd line minutes, and without being a feature on the first line powerplay for much of the year.

Wicked good player.

McKinnon got compared to Sidney Crosby too. Seth Jones is a stud. Barkov is producing big time in a mens league, and Drouin maybe as a good as Yakupov.

Just because Yakupov is great doesn't mean that these players are any less. Barkov and McKinnon Jones and Drouin have all the tools to be outstanding and be able to contribute next season too.

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#73 misfit
May 22 2013, 05:34PM
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I really don't see what everyone else sees with this situation. Nothing has changed, IMO, and I'd still be shocked to see Nichushkin go earlier than #7, and I'd be equally shocked if we took him (assuming we still hold the pick when it comes around).

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#74 Citizen David
May 22 2013, 05:55PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

The Oilers have been given a huge opportunity here.

Time to take some risk, be bold and move up in this draft.

There is a deal there with Carolina or Nashville time to take some risk get Barkov!

There is no deal to be made with Carolina and Nashville.

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#75 Citizen David
May 22 2013, 05:58PM
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Smokey wrote:

Say the Oiler were dealing Yakupov for 2nd or 3rd pick. Would you do it if your target was McKinnon or Druin or Barkov? I've wondered how Yakupov would do in this years draft. I think he would go 3rd or 4rth.

I'd take Yakupov first overall in this Draft. The only player that might be as good is MacKinnon. Drafting D first overall is a major gamble. And I'd rather have Eberle than Drouin.

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#76 geno
May 22 2013, 05:58PM
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I don't think it changes much. If TB takes Nichushkin: 1. Jones 2. Mackinnon 3. Nichushkin 4. Drouin 5. Barkov 6. Monahan 7.???

Unless Carolina takes a D man, in which case EDM's rival, Calgary, gets an elite prospect in Barkov.

This actually sucks for EDM if that happens

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#77 Citizen David
May 22 2013, 06:02PM
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geno wrote:

I don't think it changes much. If TB takes Nichushkin: 1. Jones 2. Mackinnon 3. Nichushkin 4. Drouin 5. Barkov 6. Monahan 7.???

Unless Carolina takes a D man, in which case EDM's rival, Calgary, gets an elite prospect in Barkov.

This actually sucks for EDM if that happens

I agree with that Order. That's probably how it shakes out. I'd be happy with Lindholm.

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#78 wiseguy
May 22 2013, 06:42PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

Interesting.

Tuesday: Dynamo's head coach says Nichushkin, and others, aren't guaranteed roster spots, and that they'll have to earn them.

Wednesday: Nichushkin announces he's terminated his KHL contract and is headed to the NHL.

Something fishy is going on there. Not too ecstatic about the possibility of nabbing this kid at 7.

Or.... Nichushkin woke up in a cold sweat this morning after a nightmare that the Oilers picked him at #7. He quickly talks to his team and agent and announces that he will play in the NHL knowing that this will make it a certainty that he will be drafted before he gets sucked into a vortex of years of non-playoff, meaningless hockey with lots of losing sprinkled in.

This is just as likely a scenario as the one you are suggesting.

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#79 Walter Sobchak
May 22 2013, 06:48PM
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Citizen David wrote:

There is no deal to be made with Carolina and Nashville.

Of course there is, never say never!

However, if Tambellini was still hear I would agree with you.

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#80 voom04
May 22 2013, 07:20PM
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wonder if larionov is his agent?

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#81 gcw_rocks
May 22 2013, 07:26PM
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I would love to see AV come to Edmonton. Does MacT have the balls to go get him?

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#82 oilers2k10
May 23 2013, 12:22AM
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RomZ wrote:

Size is nice but I'm of the belief it comes down to the player himself. You can't really instill a mean streak in someone who just doesn't have it. I like Paajarvi and he's a pretty big body, but watching him play you can see hes timid out there and doesn't use his size to his advantage. Could you imagine if a brad marchand was the size of a Lucic? he would be a dominant, he plays hard everynight, if he had weight to throwaround nobody would mess with him.

Almost never gonna happen, small players like Marchand are gritty the way they are because all their lives they've always had to fend off the bullies..now that they've matured and added some beef it's payback time..that and they're just trying to survive in a big big league and the only way they can is to fight and scratch every bit of the way..over the years quick twitch muscle, short tempers develope..it's kinda like that youngest brother who has three older, bigger, bullying brothers..one day the youngest becomes the meanest, nastiest, of them all.

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#83 NewAgeSys
May 24 2013, 10:57PM
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Forget the russian this time.

He is to slow and he hasnt played against NHL caliber competition,he scores most goals from in close on rushes with guys hanging off of him.This represents a major false positive assesment dynamic.

He will get taken out of the play a lot in the NHL,he doesnt ever really lean into guys when he zones to the net,he sort of just gets in front of them like a small planet and takes away the real estate totally.In the NHL he will be challenged terribly,he will be brutalised unless he has some kind of mean streak.It doesnt look like he has much of a shot really,he just sort of shovels the pucks in from odd overextended angles like jagr,but he isnt a silky smooth skater like Jaromir is.

Nooo we better pass on this cat,unless we can get him very cheap.There arent any secrets why the KHL let him go,in the NHL he needs to be a much better skater and they know it,in the KHL he is effective,they would rather keep him there and putting up points useing his size in a league where he can dominate,in the NHL he will need to develop a LOT to survive.In the KHL he is a walk-on.

I guess as always it depends on his mindset and exactly what the russian mafia are holding over his head,is his sister being held captive or his brother workong in a salt mine somewhere in Siberia?Will his family be denied travel visas or the ability to join him wherever he goes?Is anyone in prison that can be used to control him?There must be something over the kids head by now.

We need a faceoff man without any doubt,we need more than one player with this skill,so lets target one immediatly because this is one of the few pure skills that will get anyone an NHL job if they can master it,size DOESNT matter,speed DOESNT matter,toughness DOESNT matter,if you can win faceoffs in the NHL you are earning a fat and steady paycheque somewhwere,moreso than in any other league in the world.

We need players with chips on their shoulders,ones who hate extra work and the embarrasment of being punished with extra work for losing games but will give you 100% every time they have to do it.This is one of the secret ingredients the Oilers have been looking for.Guys with a lot of pride who are humble and willing to learn but have a devils streak in them that needs to be focused and released during games sometimes.And did I say we need a face-off man?????

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#84 Throttlehead
May 27 2013, 03:05AM
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NewAgeSys wrote:

Forget the russian this time.

He is to slow and he hasnt played against NHL caliber competition,he scores most goals from in close on rushes with guys hanging off of him.This represents a major false positive assesment dynamic.

He will get taken out of the play a lot in the NHL,he doesnt ever really lean into guys when he zones to the net,he sort of just gets in front of them like a small planet and takes away the real estate totally.In the NHL he will be challenged terribly,he will be brutalised unless he has some kind of mean streak.It doesnt look like he has much of a shot really,he just sort of shovels the pucks in from odd overextended angles like jagr,but he isnt a silky smooth skater like Jaromir is.

Nooo we better pass on this cat,unless we can get him very cheap.There arent any secrets why the KHL let him go,in the NHL he needs to be a much better skater and they know it,in the KHL he is effective,they would rather keep him there and putting up points useing his size in a league where he can dominate,in the NHL he will need to develop a LOT to survive.In the KHL he is a walk-on.

I guess as always it depends on his mindset and exactly what the russian mafia are holding over his head,is his sister being held captive or his brother workong in a salt mine somewhere in Siberia?Will his family be denied travel visas or the ability to join him wherever he goes?Is anyone in prison that can be used to control him?There must be something over the kids head by now.

We need a faceoff man without any doubt,we need more than one player with this skill,so lets target one immediatly because this is one of the few pure skills that will get anyone an NHL job if they can master it,size DOESNT matter,speed DOESNT matter,toughness DOESNT matter,if you can win faceoffs in the NHL you are earning a fat and steady paycheque somewhwere,moreso than in any other league in the world.

We need players with chips on their shoulders,ones who hate extra work and the embarrasment of being punished with extra work for losing games but will give you 100% every time they have to do it.This is one of the secret ingredients the Oilers have been looking for.Guys with a lot of pride who are humble and willing to learn but have a devils streak in them that needs to be focused and released during games sometimes.And did I say we need a face-off man?????

Take off the tinfoil hat with the Siberia/mafia talk.

I seen this kid live in the subway series, he was EASILY the best player on the ice (him & Rielly), I have no idea where you are getting the "he is too slow" part.

We should take Sean Monahan if he is available, but don't knock this russian kid, he will be an excellent NHL player.

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