For my second prospect preview, I will take a look at a player who, based on talent alone, could have gone in the early rounds of the 2012 NHL Draft, however there are other factors that caused Anton Slepyshev to go undrafted.
Anton Slepyshev is a 6’2, 184lb left-winger born in Penza, Russia and currently plays for Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Playing for his youth team, Dizel Penza-2, in 2009-2010 had 21 points (12-9) in 39 games when he was just 15 years old. The following season, playing for the same team, had 12 points (8-4) in 20 games. Slepyshev was then the #1 overall pick in the 2011 KHL Junior draft taken by Novokuznetsk. In his rookie season, Slepyshev played in 39 games and recorded just 7 points (4-3). While that does not seem like much, you have to take into account that Slepyshev is playing in a professional league as a 17-year-old (Slepyshev was 16 for some of the season, as well). Also, elite Russian prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov and current St. Louis Blues forward Vladamir Tarasenko had similar numbers at the same age. Slepyshev also played 13 games in the MHL (Minor Hockey League) in Russia for Kuznetskie Medvedi while recording 9 points (7-2). That same year, Slepyshev was the captain for Russia’s Under-18 National team where he had 7 points (3-4) in 6 games. This past season, playing for two different KHL teams, Slepyshev had a total of 9 points (7-2) in 26 games played in addition to his 1 point (1 assist) in 7 games for Russia’s Under-20 National team.
As I stated in the opener, Slepyshev has the talent to be a high round selection. As evidenced by his goal totals, Slepyshev has a very good shot and he knows when and how to use it. I would say Slepyshev has a “shoot-first” mentality, but he also can create offense for his teammates. Slepyshev is a good skater who is extremely agile. When you combine that with his excellent puck-handling ability, he can be a problem to defend for opposing players. Slepyshev is also a solid player in his own zone.
The major reason Slepyshev went undrafted in last years draft is because of the “KHL factor” and that teams were scared to waste a draft pick on a player that may never come over to North America. There are also flaws in his play. While Slepyshev is very difficult to defend due to his skating and puck-handling, when a player can catch him, he is very easy to knock off of the puck as he is not strong enough yet. Also, while Slepyshev has shown flashes of physicality, he must work on that an become more consistent in that area.
Projected draft round:
Since Slepyshev’s contract with his KHL team ends after next season, a team may be more wiling to take a chance on him this season that they were last year. If that is the case, his talent could get him drafted in the early third round. However, if the “KHL factor” looms over him once again, Slepyshev could fall as low as the late 5th round.
I mentioned this player earlier, I would compare Slepyshev to Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues. Not because they are both Russian, but because I see more of Tarasenko in Slepyshev than I see Evgeny Kuznetsov or a more established player like a Logan Couture or even Claude Giroux.
If Slepyshev does come over to the NHL, his talent could make him a very good top-six player and possibly (if he gets stronger) even an All-Star left-winger. Then, obviously, if he doesn’t come over, he will be a terrific player in the KHL.