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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020: #19 Alexander Yelesin

Some prospects are fast. Some prospects generate fan excitement with sweet dishes and dangles. The next prospect on our rundown might not have a reputation for being a game-breaking player, but he’s already played National Hockey League games in his first season in the Calgary Flames organization.

The 19th-ranked prospect in the Flames system is Russian defenseman Alexander Yelesin.

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How did we get here? 

Originally from Yaroslavl, Russia, the 24-year-old Yelesin worked his way up through the Lokomotiv system. Never a huge offensive weapon – his best offensive season at any level of Russian hockey was 16 points as a 16-year-old – he nevertheless won accolades for his defensive presence and crushing body checks.

Yelesin went pro in 2015-16 and bounced around Russian hockey a bit. He played for HC Ryazan and Sokol Krasnoyarsk in the secondary VHL and for Amur Khabarovsk and Lokomotiv in the KHL. He accumulated five points in 24 VHL games and 19 points in 109 KHL games.

Yelesin signed with the Flames in the spring of 2019 and left Russia to play his first season outside of his home country. He adjusted well to the AHL and even earned a pair of call-ups to the Flames, playing four games in February. He didn’t move the needle much offensively at either level in 2019-20, but his role was to be a defensive-minded player that calmed things down on the ice, and he seemed to meet that objective.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein 

Yelesin was one of seven Heat blueliners to play more than 10 games. Among that group, he was sixth in goals (one), seventh in assists (four), sixth in points (five) and third in penalty minutes. Despite all this, he got a couple recalls by virtue of his playing style… and how thin the Heat were on talent who were signed to NHL contracts.

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He posted five points in 35 AHL games and zero points in four NHL games. He’s just the 12th Russian-born player in Flames franchise history and the first Russian to play for the club since Andrei Zyuzin in 2006-07.

Those in the know 

We chatted with Stockton Heat head coach Cail MacLean for his assessment of Yelesin’s overall game:

He’s a guy that is fairly defensively intense. He’s a solid defensive player. The thing that, if you were able to see him over a larger sample size, maybe what I see at our level is he does a good job at closing quickly and being intense in terms of point of contact, he’ll make some heavier hits and he’s also an effective hard player that way. We did use him mainly in penalty killing, defensive situations, but he moves the puck well and he’s good at jumping into the play. He’s grown up playing that style in Europe where they’re really good at being interchangeable and having people jump, he will join the rush whenever the opportunity presents itself. Alex has done a good job I think of first applying his defensive abilities and then starting to grow here in terms of making things happen on the other side of the puck.

On the horizon

Yelesin will be playing out the second (and final) season of his entry level deal in 2020-21, at which point he’ll become a restricted free agent. He’s in a unique situation, in that he’s a right shot defender who plays a smart defensive style, but also isn’t unwilling to use his body to punish the opposition either. This style is unique in an organization pretty heavy with lefties, and puck-moving finesse types, and makes him somewhat valuable to the club.

With no established NHLer signed for the third pairing long-term, there’s an opening potentially for Yelesin to grab hold of with a good 2020-21 season.

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020

The no-votes Missed the cut
#20: Tyler Parsons