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.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:55 AM EST
Stopped 31 of 32 shots for the win.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:07 AM EST
No call. Got a little testy out there after that hit.
Jan 31, 2015, 11:17 PM EST
Boston maintaining their hold on a Wild Card spot.
Jan 31, 2015, 10:23 PM EST
Maybe February will be better?
Jan 31, 2015, 9:44 PM EST
Battle of Alberta isn’t what it used to be.
Jan 31, 2015, 8:57 PM EST
Scary moment, but he has stayed in the game.
Jan 31, 2015, 8:27 PM EST
Goal No. 715 of his career.
Jan 31, 2015, 8:14 PM EST
Short-handed, too! *Thumbs up*
Jan 31, 2015, 7:43 PM EST
Starting Sunday, these teams will play each other three times in 16 days.
Jan 31, 2015, 7:16 PM EST
Obviously not smart.
Jan 31, 2015, 6:46 PM EST
Allowed five goals on 20 shots.
Jan 31, 2015, 6:19 PM EST
Two losses in a row for the Islanders.
Jan 31, 2015, 5:53 PM EST
Was put on waivers, cleared, and sent to the minors this week.
Jan 31, 2015, 5:22 PM EST
Took part in team skate on Saturday.
Jan 31, 2015, 4:47 PM EST
Detroit is forcing itself into the Stanley Cup conversation.
Jan 31, 2015, 4:08 PM EST
Montreal has put pressure on Tampa Bay in the battle for the Eastern Conference lead.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:48 PM EST
He has a degenerative back injury that might lead to career-ending surgery.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:56 PM EST
He gave up five goals against them on Jan. 10.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:57 PM EST
Meanwhile Philadelphia will try to win its fourth straight game.
Jan 31, 2015, 11:57 AM EST
They’ve surpassed the early season expectations.
- Leafs scoring slump hits historical low 11
- Video: Rangers’ Lundqvist takes puck to the neck 3
- Zamboni driver arrested for DUI, allegedly cleaned ice surface while drunk 12
- Mike Richards trying to make the best of being sent to the AHL 9
- Price leads Habs past Caps with second straight shutout 8
- Report: Rob Blake would be Brendan Shanahan’s first choice to replace Dave Nonis 5
- Bettman would be ‘kicking and screaming’ before NHL jerseys have ads 27
- Comparing the records of all 30 teams in the last two months 61
- Lightning ride Paquette’s first hat trick to Atlantic lead 8
- Price wins goalie duel vs. Lundqvist as Habs edge Rangers 4