After his phenomenal showing in Russian junior and at the World Juniors in 2019, Slepets has move up from the juniors and started his 2019-20 season with Buran Voronezh of the VHL, whcih is basically the Russian equivalent of the AHL. Voronezh is about 450 miles from Yaroslavl. He currently leads that team with 13 points (6G, 7A) in 18 games, as he likely awaits a recall to the KHL.
He’s an interesting prospect for a multitude of reasons, aside from just his natural talents. Him and Pyotr Kochetkov are the first players the Hurricanes have drafted out of Russia since Igor Knyazev in 2001 (Svechnikov was drafted out of the OHL). Remarkably, between 2001 and 2018, the Hurricanes did not draft a single Russian player.
To find the last time this organization has drafted a Russian forward that was playing in Russia, you’d have to go back to 1993 when the Hartford Whalers selected Dmitri Gorenko in the 9th round, 214th overall. Gorenko never played a game for Hartford and remained in his Russian homeland for his entire career. He doesn’t even have a hockeyreference page for me to link for you guys.
So obviously, taking a chance on Slepets shows that the new regime in Carolina is willing to search far and wide for potential contributors. The Canes also recently added Oleg Smirnov as an amateur scout, who’s well-respected in Russian hockey and has been around in the KHL since 2009. Big news for a team that seemingly avoided Russian players for much of their existence.
But can Slepets be a guy who can break the trend? That remains to be seen, but he definitely has a shot. Literally. His blistering wrist shot, relentless work ethic and blazing speed give him capable tools to get him to the NHL one day. Here’s a glimpse of what to expect from him:
In the clip above, Slepets shows his undeniably good stickhandling ability and skill in close as he freezes the goaltender and slides in an easy goal.
In the clip below, you get a taste of his blazing speed. He picks up a loose puck at his own blue-line, splits the D with a gust of speed that leaves them both in the dust and makes a gorgeous move, tucking the puck five-hole on the USA goaltender. Truly a world class effort, and a thing of absolute beauty.
His entire performance against his U20 age group at the 2019 World Juniors was absolutely dominant. His 5 goals led the Russian team, and really raised his draft stock. He proved he can perform on the world stage.