Aug 14, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT
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.
Nov 1, 2014, 1:12 AM EDT
Scored the winner from a sharp angle.
Nov 1, 2014, 12:26 AM EDT
Darryl Sutter spoke at great length.
Oct 31, 2014, 11:58 PM EDT
Oct 31, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT
Injuries piling up in Calgary.
Oct 31, 2014, 11:12 PM EDT
That’s four losses in a row for Columbus.
Oct 31, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
This one got a little testy.
Oct 31, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT
No penalty on the play, for those wondering. Appeared clean all the way.
Oct 31, 2014, 9:34 PM EDT
Oct 31, 2014, 9:06 PM EDT
Folks continue to rally around Mr. Hockey.
Oct 31, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT
What is going on with the defending champs?
Oct 31, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT
He’s on the left in that photo. Doing what his old man used to do.
Oct 31, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT
Has been on quite a roll down in Utica.
Oct 31, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT
Meanwhile, sounds like Carter Ashton makes his season debut.
Oct 31, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
The hit occurred seconds before Vancouver scored.
Oct 31, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
Hasn’t played since Oct. 8.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT
Could play Saturday against Washington.
Oct 31, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
At the same time, Claude Julien admits the B’s “are still trying to find that confidence level that comes with winning on a regular basis.”
Oct 31, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
All the latest from the blue paint.
Oct 31, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT
“I just haven’t come to that decision yet.”
Oct 31, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
When Philly takes on the Panthers in Florida.
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