#17 – Alexander Yelesin
2019-20 Team: Stockton Heat (AHL)
Signed on May 10 2019
Last Year Ranking: #21
Alexander Yelesin’s first season in North America was fairly uneventful depending on how you look at things. He spent the majority of the season dressing the Stockton Heat, playing in 38 games and putting up five points. Those numbers aren’t too surprising for the 24 year old native of Yaroslavl, Russia. He had ten points in 55 KHL games the previous season with Yaroslavl Locomotiv. He made a reputation for himself in the KHL as a defensive defenceman and was an all-star there in 2018-19 while throwing the most hits in the league.
Yelesin also managed to earn a brief NHL shot this year, dressing in four games for the Flames in February with no points over those games. He also averaged roughly 12 minutes of ice time per game. In dressing for the Flames, he became the first Russian born player to suit up for the team since Andrei Zyuzin in 2006-07.
Moving forward, the path for Yelesin to have a crack at making the roster isn’t entirely clear. The Flames will definitely be rolling with the likes of Mark Giordano, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, and Juuso Valimaki to fill five of the seven defensive spots. Then there is Oliver Kylington, newly UFA’s Nikita Nesterov and Alex Petrovic, and defensive prospect Connor Mackey who the tam seems quite high on. Another consideration is that Yelesin’s ELC carries a 925k cap hit, so for a guy that’s probably going to be the 7th defender, the Flames would probably prefer to save 225k and keep a league min guy around.
At this point what looks most likely is a return to Stockton to start the season (and I’m surprised we haven’t heard of him being loaned to Europe at all) with a chance to be called up should injuries occur on the right side. He has one year left on his current contract, so he’ll need to keep improving this year to potentially have a shot at a full time job the following season.
by Michael MacGillivray