Bodgdan Yakimov has been at the top of Edmonton's second tier of prospects for a while now. In both the Winter and Fall 2014 editions he was just behind a consensus top nine, all of whom were expected to have solid NHL careers. The nine guys ahead of him have changed slightly every time, but the story remains the same: Bogdan Yakimov is King of the Leftovers.
In this case, Yakimov retaining his spot on this list reflects the fact that, while he didn't blow the doors off the AHL, he showed enough in his first North American season to keep reasonable hope for a long, productive NHL career alive.
Yakimov impressed the Oilers at camp, even getting into an NHL game early in the season. He followed that with the usual bumpiness that comes for AHL rookies, scoring just 10 points in the 27 games he played until the end of December. Of course, these AHL lumps are often at least partly a reflection of the situation you're put in and Yakimov's case falls into that category for sure. None of Yakimov's 10 points came on the power play, which suggests that he wasn't seeing very many reps in that situation, and Eric Rodgers estimates his time on ice per game for that three-month period at just 12:06. That estimate will have pretty wide margins to either side of it, but the number is low enough to be confident that Yakimov wasn't in a featured role.
Anton Lander got called up to the Oilers on January 1st. When that happened, Yakimov was given an opportunity to play with Andrew Miller, and to his credit, he took advantage. Over the next 30 games, Yakimov scored 18 points (including five on the power play), saw his shot totals per game increase from 2.04 to 2.27 and his estimated ice time from 12:06 to 19:48 (the latter estimate is on the high side of Yakimov's self-assessment, but we can be pretty confident he played a lot more). His last dozen games were particularly encouraging, with a scoring line of 6-4-10 and 2.33 shots per game. Unfortunately, Bogan Yakimov injured his knee at the end of that run and missed the rest of the season.
Yakimov has identified his skating (speed) as a specific area he'd like to improve, and that jives well with what scouts like Corey Pronman have said recently. Yakimov has said that he doesn't know what his faceoff percentage is (aside: good grief, Oilers; if the AHL isn't doing it for you, why not just count this yourself), but expects that it's around 60% (I don't know if he knows how good that is). If that number is close to accurate, Yakimov's huge 6'5'', 232 lb. frame and developing offense make him a prospect of interest for a number of different roles on the club going forward. That's something that Barons' veteran, Jason Williams, probably had in mind when he was asked in February to pick a young player who had a shot at a long NHL career:
Big Bo (Bogdan) Yakimov, the Russian player... He's a big, big kid... because of his size and the way he protects the puck, he could be a guy that could potentially have a good shot at being in the NHL a long time. There are still a lot of things he needs to learn, but he's really developed his game and turned it around. He's been really good for us for the last little bit.
Things to work on, but a good chance. Sounds exactly right. Yakimov's knee is all clear now (he's skating in Edmonton) and he'll thus be ready to go for the start of the season. If he picks up where he left off, it might be tough for the Oilers to keep Big Bo in Bakersfield for the whole year. We can only hope that's the case.