by Lisa McRitchie on 06/04/12 at 10:15 PM ET
He can play left wing, right wing and even goal if that’s what you need from him joked Nail Yakupov in his first media availability in Edmonton on Monday afternoon. In fact there were a lot of jokes from the feisty winger who has otherwise been known for his odd World Juniors post game scrums. In the short amount of time that he was in Calgary for the World Juniors, I could never get within arms reach through all of the other media and I certainly couldn’t get much of a sense from Yakupov. Except for the fact that he is an extremely confident young man who is passionate about playing hockey and especially for his home country of Russia that is. But after hearing Yakupov speak in a more relaxed setting I get the sense that this is exactly the kind of attitude the Oilers need to add to their dressing room.
Yakupov brushed off questions of what we can bring to Edmonton because he cares most about winning and about being number one on June 22nd. After years of work and leaving home and everything he knows to play hockey in the CHL that dream of being taken by an NHL team first overall could be a reality. But it isn’t set in stone that the Oilers will keep their pick.
With less than three weeks before the draft, talk still circulates that the first overall pick is up for grabs. But without a contract extension GM Steve Tambellini would have to have his socks knocked off to make any kind of deal. You might as well consider that pick to the be the Oilers’; we’ve heard this song before.
And while three first overall picks may still butt heads in the locker room, maybe the same could be said of three players regardless of where they were selected. And if Yakupov is as devoted to winning and to his team as the image he portrays, that is something else the team can use more of. Especially after three years of earning that first overall pick.
There is also the fact that Yakupov as a rookie may be more talented than some of the more seasoned vets. Alright, he is, and so he will be a welcomed addition to the Oilers’ roster. After all, he says he’s ready to camp out in the Oilers’ locker room.
But look out ladies. When asked what the strangest interview question he faced at the combine was, it was whether or not he had a girlfriend. His response? Two, and maybe one more in Edmonton now too.
If there are still any concerns about what drives Yakupov Andrey Osadchenko, writer for the Hockey News has written up some more Yakupov quotes for OilersNation.com and rabid Oilers fans who can’t get enough draft talk. “I’m not the kind of guy who doesn’t care where his team is in the standings” Yakupov tells Osadchenko, “I’m not the one who thinks: ‘So I’m on the team… whatever. The way it plays, doesn’t affect my pay-cheque’. I always set my bar high. I want to be a top-6 forward. I want to score, I want to get assists and I want to win. I don’t care what team I’m on. Every team has a potential. Every team has good players and coaches. Any team can lose. Every team can win.” Edmonton has been saying that for years, but hasn’t been seeing it despite the glimmers of hope. Despite everything, the Oilers are just a few key pieces away from being a scary team. Yakupov could be one of those pieces.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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