Aug 14, 2014, 9:59 AM EST
The Nail Yakupov headlines on PHT last season pretty much say it all:
So yeah, 2013-14 was not the greatest for Yak. Aside from the healthy scratches, trade rumors and acrimonious relationship with his head coach, Yakupov also missed 16 games to injury (concussion, ankle) and finished with the fourth-worst plus-minus rating in the league last year, at minus-33.
It’s almost hard to remember that, just two years ago, Yakupov was a tantalizing talent that tore up the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 170 points in 102 games over the course of two seasons with Sarnia. That paved the way for Edmonton to select him first overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which paved the way for an immediate jump to the NHL, where he actually fared quite well — remember that Yakupov led all rookies in goals during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, with 17, and finished fifth in Calder voting.
Which made last season all the more nightmarish.
Now — and this is weird to say about someone that doesn’t turn 21 until October — Yakupov is at something of a crossroads. Barring a piano falling on his head, everything that could’ve gone wrong last year did, which provides plenty of narratives as the Russian sniper heads into the final year of his entry-level deal. Is Yakupov a quality player that simply had a dreadful sophomore slump? Or is he a one-dimensional, offense-first guy that just doesn’t get it?
To that last point — maybe he does get it. Contract status and his future with the Oilers are on the line, and it’s something Yakupov recognizes. From the Edmonton Journal:
Yakupov spent the first part of the summer back home in Russia with his family and friends. While he was having a good time and training as much as possible, he recently returned to Edmonton to get ready for his third NHL season.
“It’s maybe a huge year for me,” he said. “I feel more comfortable to train here than at home, so that’s why I’m here.
“I’ll train with the Oilers prospects, and then the NHL players are going to come, and then I want to play in the three-on-three tournament. … I want to be here.”
It’s worth noting that pressure on Yakupov is coming from outside Edmonton as well. Ryan Murray, who the Oilers passed on at the ’12 draft, just turned in a banner year on the Columbus blueline. The decision was controversial at the time…
Decision to take Yakupov over Murray came from a higher authority. That’s not indictment of decision, only saying how it was arrived at.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 6, 2013
… and continues to be today, especially with how valuable talented young defensemen are. And how badly Edmonton could use one.
So, just to refresh what Yakupov’s up against: a contract year, coming off a horrible second season, under a head coach he didn’t see eye-to-eye with and in the growing shadow of Murray, the guy the Oilers could’ve had.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:36 PM EST
He’s been consistently putting the puck in the net at the NHL level since 1996.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:06 PM EST
What better way to make an impression on new teammates.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:40 PM EST
Mar 4, 2015, 9:49 PM EST
Big Buff out could be a Big Loss for Winnipeg.
Mar 4, 2015, 9:26 PM EST
Good news for NYR.
Mar 4, 2015, 8:48 PM EST
Big Buff doing Big Buff things.
Mar 4, 2015, 8:26 PM EST
Also, for causing “significant injury.”
Mar 4, 2015, 7:23 PM EST
8 p.m. ET, on NBCSN
Mar 4, 2015, 6:50 PM EST
“It’s definitely an issue that needs a collective focus from our managers and the league in terms of how to deal with it.”
Mar 4, 2015, 6:18 PM EST
“It’s probably undeniable that down the road when [Chara] is done with his career, if Bergeron is here it would be pretty hard to not make him the next captain.”
Mar 4, 2015, 5:30 PM EST
An Original Six matchup at the Joe.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:43 PM EST
Has appeared in just three games for the Blue Jackets since being traded from Toronto.
Mar 4, 2015, 4:13 PM EST
‘Hawks are hoping he can “recapture” his early-season form.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:32 PM EST
Hurt it in practice.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:04 PM EST
Another small crowd last night at BB&T Center.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:28 PM EST
News and notes from around the crease…
Mar 4, 2015, 2:09 PM EST
“You can never have too many d-men at this time of the year.”
Mar 4, 2015, 2:04 PM EST
Detroit captain draws in for the first time in four games.
Mar 4, 2015, 1:53 PM EST
Veteran tough guy hopeful to return by the playoffs.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:49 PM EST
Boyle and the Rangers take on Detroit (on NBCSN), Tanguay and the Avs will play Pittsburgh.
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