The Edmonton Oilers have a lot of prospects on defense moving into the AHL this season: Ziyat Paigin will be joined by Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and Ryan Mantha. Given that the Oilers are also employing veterans like Keegan Lowe, Dillon Simpson, Ryan Stanton, and (probably) Mark Fayne, it seems clear to me that playing time is going to be an issue for some of the AHL rookies, especially early in the season. Playing regularly and playing in important situations is essential, both for development purposes and for being high enough in the pecking order when a recall opportunity arises. I think Ziyat Paigin is likely to emerge from this group as an everyday player, and since this is his first opportunity in a North American league, I expect the club may well want to see what he can do at the NHL level.
Why might Paigin emerge? Well, he has an advantage over the other rookies in that he’s older (he’s 22 years old), and has quite a lot of experience (101 games) playing in the KHL, a professional league at least as good as the AHL. And it’s not just that he’s in the games. His 2015-16 season was particularly impressive. Paigin scored 27 points in 37 games after he was traded from Ak-Bars Kazan to HC Sochi. During the regular season, Paigin played 17:45 per game and saw his ice time increase in the playoffs to 21:46. Paigin was also one of just twelve defensemen to play in the KHL All-Star Game that January. The only other defenseman selected under age 25 was Nikita Zaitsev, and he just finished a pretty impressive rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Unfortunately, Paigin’s 2016-17 season wasn’t nearly as good. He was traded back to Ak-Bars Kazan over the summer, and saw his ice time decrease heavily, and the power play opportunities he had enjoyed with HC Sochi weren’t given. He was also put out of the lineup for a time because of a knee injury, after which his new (old) club demoted him to the VHL where he played more frequently and scored 7 points in 17 games. After the season he signed with Bakersfield on a try-out basis and got into five games. While in Bakersfield, he identified ice time as an issue in an interview he did with Alexei Shevchenko:
Paigin’s conditioning was also mentioned as a major concern by his coach with Ak-Bars in that (very excellent and highly recommended) interview. If he takes that critique seriously, Paigin’s skill set and 6’6’’ frame lead me to believe that he’ll be able to establish himself in Bakersfield early, and may well get a call-up to the NHL before this season is finished.