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NHL.COM: Oilers have intriguing prospect in Belov

by Brian Compton / Edmonton Oilers continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

When defenseman Anton Belov expressed interest in leaving the Kontinental Hockey League more than a year ago, he drew the interest of several NHL teams.

Belov first had to fulfill his deal with Omsk, which he did with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 46 games last season. Being an undrafted player in the NHL, Belov was an unrestricted free agent and could choose the team he wanted to play for.

Much like Edmonton Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz did a year ago, Belov was intrigued by the team's plethora of young talent. Now, the two are teammates after Belov signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Oilers on May 30.

Belov, 27, arrived at training camp after handling immigration issues in Moscow. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Russian will have to learn to adjust quickly if he hopes to be lineup when the Oilers open the regular season Oct. 1 against the Winnipeg Jets at Rexall Place.

"I think it's been a tough little while for the kid," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "He's had immigration problems and was held up in Moscow, not skating, massive time change, nervous energy. It's going to take a number of days to get him up to speed, I think."

Despite the crash course, the Oilers were planning on getting Belov into some preseason games with hopes of being able to evaluate where he can fit. Edmonton brass is hoping Belov can be another offensive weapon on the blue line alongside Schultz, who had 27 points in 48 games as a rookie last season.

"We're going to have to," Eakins said of getting Belov some playing time in the preseason. "We've got to make a decision. He's going to have to play."

Belov arrives in North America as a bit of an unknown, having spent his entire professional career in the KHL. But the scouting reports were too positive for the Oilers to ignore.

"He's got some size (6-foot-4, 212 pounds), a big shot, he defends well," Eakins said. "There was nothing on the downside. As a coach, the only thing that could be a negative for me is that in the KHL, like a lot of European leagues, they don't forecheck hard.

"You've got a lot of time to go back for the puck and get set up and they send one and back up with four, and so you've got a lot of time to do things where I know every team in the [NHL] is preaching what I am when that puck gets put in. We're going hunting for it and we're getting the puck or we're getting the body. That's going to be an adjustment for him right away."

Whatever adjustments he has to make, Belov seems willing. The day to show he can play in the NHL finally has arrived.

"I had one dream, to play in the NHL," said Belov, who had 64 points in 227 KHL games. "I've never been drafted and now, [Oilers] GM Craig MacTavish gave me a chance. I hope and I promise I will do everything for Edmonton, for the team."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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