Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2013 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2013 Draft Articles Click here.
Anton Slepyshev becomes the first of our NHL Draft re-entries, as he was eligible for the 2012 draft but not selected. Last year we gave Slepyshev as 2nd round ranking and prefaced it by saying that he had first round talent, but that the ever present KHL factor would drop him in the rankings. What we did not anticipate is that last year Slepyshev would not even bother to show up for the NHL draft combine, making it clear that he had no intentions of leaving Russia for the 2012-13 season, and leaving him unable to answer any questions as to if he ever planned to leave the KHL. While I don’t really like the stereotypes that many out there give to Russian born players and I don’t believe in things like enigmatic, lazy, not team orientated and other such labels, there is no denying that from a business perspective the KHL factor exists. If you want to know more about my feelings on the KHL factor in general, check out the earlier report on Valeri Nichushkin.
Coming off a year of not being drafted, Slepyshev has been even better in 2012-13. He was a big time player for Team Russia in the Subway Super Series, and at the World Junior Championships where the team won Bronze. His play added on to previous international experience such as the 2011 and 2012 Under 18 World Championships.
Slepyshev’s KHL contract ends at the end of the 2013-14 season. There have been more and more hints that he is planning to come to North America as soon as it is done, and try his hand at the NHL. If this is true, his draft stock will rise.
Born May 13, 1994– Penza, Russia
Height 6.02 — Weight 194 — Shoots Right
Slepyshev is already a very good skater, and with some refinements in technique he could become a great one. Slepyshev has very good top end speed, and quick acceleration despite a stride that is a little bit too short and choppy. A small bit of work would change Slepyshev from a very good skater to a great one. He already possesses the balance, agility and strength on his skates that is necessary to compete at the next level, and his edgework is great.
Slepyshev is a talented offensive player. He loves to shoot and has a very good array of shots. His wrist shot and snap shot both are hard, accurate, and feature a quick release. Slepyshev has very good hands, and is able to dangle around defencemen. He’s not afraid to drive the net and generated chances in close with his quick hands. He is a hard worker engaging in and winning numerous puck battles along the boards, and is willing to take abuse in front of the net. Big and powerful, he is more than capable of playing in those tough areas. Slepyshev could however use some work on his playmaking as he can have a tendency to get tunnel vision and want to shoot everything at the net.
Slepyshev is well developped defensively. He has effective positioning and uses his stick to cut down on passing lanes. He pressures the puck carrier well, and has been an important part of Russia’s Penalty Kill Unit at the international level over the years. His impressive work along the boards, and high compete level seem to help him in this aspect of the game.
Based on recent draft results, and how the KHL fear has effected those playing in the KHL in the draft, we’ve downgraded Slepyshev quite a few ranks from where he would be based on pure talent. If things were certain about his coming to North America, he likely would have been a first rounder last year. Where he goest this year is anyone’s guess, as the questions answered by Slepyshev and his agent will give teams some clue as to when he could be playing in the NHL.
In terms of style, Slepyshev plays the game similarly to Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes. His maximum potential is to be an improved version of Vrbata and a true top line sniper and power forward off the wing, however the lingering KHL factor needs to be fully addressed. Note that my #47 ranking is where I would place him, and not a prediction of what NHL teams will do (our mock drafts will come later). Its very possible that Slepyshev could drop again in this draft, however I feel that he could be a real steal if taken in the mid 2nd round or later. His talent level is equivalent to a first round pick and the gamble here is if we will see him leave Russia.
Check back tomorrow for our number 48 prospect.
Thanks for reading, as always feel free to leave comments below and follow me on twitter @lastwordBKerr. Give the rest of the hockey department a follow while you’re at it – @BigMick99, @IswearGAA, and @LastWordOnNHL, and follow the site @lastwordonsport.
Interested in writing for LastWordOnSports? If so, check out our “Join Our Team” page to find out how.