Bogdan Yakimov did not become a member of the Edmonton Oilers by what I would consider to be a conventional route. He was drafted by the team in the third round of last summer's Entry Draft, and normally there is nothing strange about that. In Yakimov's case though the Oilers had to first trade down twice before securing the pick which they would use to draft the big Russian forward. For those who don't recall, the Oilers second round pick, number 37 overall, to the Kings for picks 57, 88, and 96 and then moved pick 57 to St. Louis for picks 83, 94, and 113.
If you break down those trades there is a case that to be made that MacTavish didn't get great value for the number 37 selection, but when he quit trading down he found a very interesting prospect in Yakimov.
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From the summer to today Yakimov has shot up nine spots in our rankings to land at number 10. Across the board all of our writers have moved him up, and almost all moved him up several spots, I have him eight spots higher for example. The exception is Scott who was the first to climb aboard the Yakimov express having previously ranked him at number 12.
As you'd expect from rankings like those there are some things to like about Yakimov, and I've already mentioned one of those things, his size. In the summer Michael called Yakimov "Chewbacca on skates." With all due respect to Michael, that overstates things a bit, Chewbacca is 7'3" and Yakimov is only 6'4" (some sites say 6'5"), but I think you get the point, he's rather large. In Edmonton though, we've leaned the hard way that size alone does make a prospect, they need to also be able to play the game too, and Yakimov can do just that.
In 33 games with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk this season Yakimov has seven goals and five assists. For those more familiar with CHL prospects those numbers might not look like much, but for a teenager playing in the KHL they're not bad at all. When Derek last looked at the NHLE of the Oilers' prospects Yakimov showed quite well. Obviously there is room for improvement, but having seen so many big prospects who couldn't play, it's nice to finally see one who has the potential to have value to the franchise beyond an ability to help out our smaller players by reaching things that they would normally require a step stool to get to.
To go from prospect who can play to actual player, Yakimov is going to have to work on his skating and his mobility. This is something that was noted before the draft, and it was noticeable during the recent World Junior tournament as well. In seven games at this year's tournament Yakimov scored one goal, added an assist, and won a bronze medal. Being big gives him the ability to be a decent player without being a great skater, but if he's going to continue to climb the pro ranks he going to have to make strides, so to speak, with respect to his skating.
The biggest question mark with Yakimov has nothing to do with skill though, it's whether or not we'll ever see him play. And not just here in Edmonton, in North America. There is no denying it, the KHL is going to be a draw for Yakimov. Financially it could certainly be a more attractive option than spending a couple of seasons in Oklahoma City playing with the Barons. It all depends on the player you see him becoming. If he looks like a player who could make a significant impact in the NHL it will become easier to bring him across as any stay in the minors will likely be short. If you see him further down the depth chart it becomes a tougher thing to sell to the player.
Right now we're bullish on Yakimov, but if his development stalls and it starts to look increasingly unlikely that he'll make the jump to North America, expect a quick sell off.