Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 08/24/14 at 06:32 AM ET
from Derek Van Diest at NHL.com,
Will Nail Yakupov have a bounce-back season? -- Selected No. 1 by the Oilers in 2012, Yakupov had a strong rookie season but regressed last season. The talented right wing struggled in his own end, which created friction with first-year coach Dallas Eakins. Yakupov heads into the 2014-15 season wanting to put last season behind him. He reportedly also has mended fences with Eakins, meeting this offseason to iron out their differences.
"I'm not even thinking about last season," Yakupov said. "I'm concentrating on this season. I'm hoping to have a good year and I'm doing everything I can in order to do that. We'll see what it's going to be like this year. I promise I'll work hard and play 100 percent. I hope it's going to be good for me and good for the team. We have to play better than we did last year so we'll see how it goes."
Will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be able to carry the load at center? -- Nugent-Hopkins was pegged as the Oilers' No. 1 center the moment the team made him the first selection in the 2011 draft. Nugent-Hopkins was signed to a long-term extension last season, confirming his place in the team's future with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Unlike Hall and Eberle, however, Nugent-Hopkins still is looking for his breakout season. Nugent-Hopkins had 19 goals and 56 points in 80 games last season, well off the point-per-game pace of his rookie season.
Lacking depth up the middle, the Oilers will rely heavily on Nugent-Hopkins on both sides of the puck. He'll be counted on to log big minutes against some of the top centers in the Western Conference.
If Nugent-Hopkins gets hurt, the Oilers could be in big trouble.
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