Each blog on SB Nation is participating in a Mock Draft leading up to the real event on Friday, June 22nd. Previous picks and discussions can be found here. While we won't know whether Columbus will take the Kings' first round pick or not until Friday, we were given the opportunity here.
At this point in our mock draft, many players fit the "high risk/high reward" profile. Jewels from the Crown chose to take a gamble on a talented Russian winger with top six upside, Anton Slepyshev.
Slepyshev is a 6'2" left wing with good skating ability and a fine set of hands. At just 17, he is already competing against grown men in the KHL. To put his production in context, he's putting up comparable numbers to Vladimir Tarasenko at that age. He also captained the U18 team for Russia in 2012.
On talent alone, Slepyshev would be ranked much higher, but the KHL factor has caused him to fall on many lists. He was a 1st overall pick for Metallurg Novokuznetsk, and has committed to play there for the next two seasons. ISS has him ranked 35th overall. The consensus compiled at NHL Numbers places him at #38.
For a team willing to wait for him to develop, Slepyshev could be a steal.
Here's what a few draft profilers had to say.
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus (Ranked #17 Overall):
Slepyshev is one of the rare 17-year-old forwards who has been able to step into the KHL and produce, albeit at a marginal level. His production is along the lines of what elite prospects Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko did in their 17-year-old seasons, though, for example. Slepyshev is an above-average skater who is tremendously agile and is also able to get up to a notable top gear. When you combine his great agility with the fact he has high-end puck skills, he really is a nuisance to check. Slepyshev is very effective at dodging opponents and creating space for himself. I've seen times on penalty kills where he would dance around the opposing zone for 15-25 seconds because several opponents keep missing him. Slepyshev has a plus if not near that shot and he knows it, as he has a shoot-first mentality with the ability to score from way out. He can still make plays and doesn't have tunnel vision, but I wouldn't classify him as a playmaker. Slepyshev's physical game needs some work as while he's average-sized, he's got a bean pole frame and can easily be pushed off the puck. He will show some physical effort, although that at times could be better, and has some defensive value too, but his strength level is way behind where it needs to be.
As a teenager who needs to mature and fill out, I'm not surprised that he could also stand to work on his conditioning. His agility and skill make him attractive enough to snag.
One of the premier forward talents available this season, Russian winger Anton Slepyshev has already shown his scoring touch in the second-best league in the world, the KHL. After getting off to a hot start, he cooled off significantly in large part due to the minimal ice time he received (under nine minutes a game) but the early offensive outburst mirrors how past top prospects have fared in the KHL.
Slepyshev’s talents with the puck are beyond reproach. His ability to weave through traffic and dangle the puck past opposition defenders are among the best in this class. He protects the puck very well and is only rarely dispossessed.
We admit it: the idea of a shoot-first Frolov type has a special place in our hearts.
The Scouting Report (Ranked #18 Overall):
The KHL will undoubtedly be of concern for NHL teams when weighing their options with Slepyshev, but on talent alone, he has certainly proven himself as a 1st rounder in this draft. Slepyshev is a dynamic winger who has slick puckhandling skills and loves to showcase them when he has the opportunity. He has NHL size and has proven himself against professional players as a 17-year-old which bodes well moving forward as he finds more comfort. Slepyshev could be a good gamble for a team drafting in the late 1st round that can afford to be patient with him over the next several years, otherwise he likely has limited appeal for teams looking for a player who is committed to the organization from the outset.
Why We Chose Slepyshev Despite The KHL Factor
This talented young player is going to fall -- the only question is how far. Could the Kings wait, as the Blues did for Tarasenko? Yes. Is Dean Lombardi likely to do so? It would surprise me.
Our selection is not meant to be predictive. While Dean Lombardi has no problem with drafting Russian players, he has requireed those prospects show an interest in coming over to North America to develop. Slava Voynov came over at age 18 to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL, and didn't make the big club until his fourth year.
Playing in the KHL is far more lucrative for these young players. There is no guarantee they will cross the pond. Even Kitsyn, who had a stint in Canadian juniors, was not able to get out of his KHL commitment.
However, a talented forward with top six potential is tough to find at this area of the draft. Los Angeles could use more prospects of his type in the system, particularly on the left side. We would not need to count on him joining the NHL immediately. We believe Slepyshev's combination of size, speed, and skill warrants a gamble with this pick. Instead of playing it safe, we'd like to see them swing for the fences.
What do you think? Is Slepyshev worth the risk? Do you have another favorite prospect who's caught your eye?
Others considered: Henrik Samuelsson, Ludvig Bystrom, Danill Zharkov, Martin Frk, Tim Bozon, Damon Severson, Phil DiGuiseppe.