A pair of Russian forwards spent part of the 2015-16 season down in the American Hockey League with the Oilers affiliate. Anton Slepyshev and Bogdan Yakimov each played over 35 games for the Bakersfield Condors.
Slepyshev opened the season in Edmonton (11 games, one assist), but was assigned down to Bakersfield. It took him some time to adjust to his new surroundings in his first North American season.
The winger seemed to find his groove in the month of March. He had a stretch of games in which he recorded three goals and four assists for seven points in seven games. He finished the season with 21 points, including 13 goals, in 49 games for the Condors.
“I think Slepy got better as the year went on and I think you’ll see more offence from him next year,” said Condors Coach Gerry Fleming, who spoke with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now Tuesday. “It’s always tough when you don’t understand the language, different culture, the game is a little bit different here with just the size of the ice and the way the philosophies are. It took him a little while to adapt to that but I think there were signs toward the end of the year that he does have that club in his bag and he’s got a good skill-set. He’s big, he just needed time to get comfortable.”
Yakimov had much more of a rollercoaster season that saw him return to the KHL for 11 games and then the playoffs before returning to Bakersfield to finish out the year. He finished his 2015-16 AHL campaign with 15 points (5-10-15) in 36 games. This came a year following a promising first North American season in which a strong rookie camp put him right in the thick of the top end of the Oilers prospect pool. The return to Russia could be seen as a bump in his development road, but his return was encouraging for the Condors and the Oilers.
“Double-edged sword there,” said Fleming. “He thinks that going back helped him not only physically but mentally. He says it’s a different game, they play a little bit differently. Maybe a little more skill-set is required so maybe you have to be focused on that. He came back and kudos to him for coming back and trying to help us. He was good on draws for us down the stretch. Obviously, we’d like to see a little more offence from him but it wasn’t from lack of trying, that’s for sure.”