Anton Slepyshev cracks the top 10 in this year's Top 25 Under 25. Here's how we saw him:
The enigmatic Russian forward was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Oilers, two years after being the first overall selection in the 2011 KHL draft after showing well as a 16 year old in Russia's third tier.
Slepyshev debuted in the KHL at 18 and struggled to score at a prolific clip, but it must be said that younger players don't tend to get a lot of opporunity in Russia's top league.
He did score well at the junior level as an international though, with 6-5-11 (G-A-P) in 14 GP at the Ivan Hlinka, and 2-6-8 (G-A-P) in 14 GP at the World Junior tournament - and it's worth noting that he was one of the younger players on the team in his first go, but produced over a point per game clip in his second.
After firmly cementing his place in the Oilers lineup in 2016-17, Slepyshev looks poised to expand on his role - and hopefully, his output - this season.
What The Scouts Said
2014-15: Slepyshev skated for Ufa Salavat as a 20-year-old in his second KHL season. Among the team’s leading goal scorers despite averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time, he scored 15 goals with 10 assists and was +1 with 12 penalty minutes in 58 games. Ufa finished fourth in the Chernyshev Division and lost in the first round in the KHL playoffs. Slepyshev had 2 assists and had an even plus/minus with no penalties, averaging 16 minutes of ice time in five playoff games. In four games with the UFA junior team during the MHL playoffs he was +3 and scored 5 goals with 3 assists. Slepyshev signed a three-year entry-level contract with Edmonton in May 2015.
Slepyshev is a big winger with great hands and a blazing top speed. When combined with his strong hockey sense in the offensive zone, he is tough to catch. His physical game needs a bit of work and he sometimes does not dig as deep into tough areas as he should.
Talent-wise his high skill level and skating ability suggest a bright future once he puts things together.
What The Brass Said
"These guys have shown good growth and will continue to show growth," he said. "It would have been counter-productive to drop (older free agents) in front of them. Those are young players that you want to leave room to grow.
"I saw really good growth in a guy like Slepyshev. In the playoffs he showed me a lot."
-Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli
There's a lot to like about the tools in Slepyshev's locker, but it must be said his results were somewhat confounding last season. Being deployed, primarily, as a fourth line forward (with fourth line teammates, typically against fourth line opposition), his GF% led the team at an outrageous 70.6% (stats courtesy PuckIQ.com), but his CF% was among the bottom-feeders at 45.3%.
What this tells me, is that Cam Talbot probably played pretty well while Slepyshev was on the ice, and that small sample sizes (GF% in his case is derived from 17 goals - 12 for and 5 against - not a huge body of work) are probably not to be trusted. This is further reinforced by his team-low (among regulars) 1.60 GF/60. Last year, he was a low event fourth liner who seems to struggle in possession who may or may not contribute to his goaltender stopping EVERYTHING while he's on the ice.
He also has some actual offensive flair, and the confidence to display it in critical situations, evidenced by his series-clinching goal in San Jose after a nifty breakaway.
With fourth line players who have some skill, my tendency is to overdo it when trying to project their improvement moving forward. Guys who have the 'tools you like' but still have to put it together are certainly no guarantee to do just that. So, I have to be wary of assuming he will perform better with better linemates, but his skating and offensive instincts at least gives the idea that he can move up the lineup successfully some credence.
Look for Slepyshev to start in the bottom-six with little-to-no special teams time to start the season, but if he continues to be on the right side of the GF% battle, don't be surprised if he starts to crawl his way up the lineup as the year progresses.