by Lisa Brown on 06/23/12 at 03:45 AM ET
“It’s hard to pass up on offensive players” were the parting words that Oilers’ head of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor left me with. It seems he was sure that the Oilers would take Nail Yakupov the whole time as well. But I do admit that I wavered. A little. But not until the very end. The trouble is that GM Steve Tambellini holds his cards so incredibly close to his chest, it makes it difficult to be certain. You read between the lines a little too much, you search for answers in other places, and sometimes they’re not always right. What seems to be right, at this point in time is that the Oilers walked away from the first round with the best player available at this year’s NHL entry draft.
But best player or not, the consensus for next season is exactly the same as it always is, there are no guarantees that Yakupov will play in the NHL. But of course he will.
MacGregor said when asked “I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on him. I think that Nail wants to make the transition to pro hockey, to the National Hockey League, but I think that every player that goes first overall that’s their goal or every player who goes high in the draft. So I would anticipate that he’s going to challenge.” And for Tambellini “I know he wants to play in the NHL, but let’s just let him play.” Especially at the Oilers upcoming development camp, where Yakupov will play with other Oilers’ prospects.
That list of Oilers prospects at the development camp doesn’t include the players that Yakupov was drafted to play with. Players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi will be busy with their own off-season training, but might stop in to welcome the new addition to the team.
By this time however, everyone seems to have picked up on the fact that Yakupov is a very different guy than the rest of the Oilers’ roster. My concerns about Yakupov and the other first overall picks getting along may be unwarranted, but it is evident that there are differences there. To that, Tambellini just smiles and reminds us that all of the players are different but that that can be a good thing. Tambellini went to great lengths to describe before the draft, that it was important understand the new draft pick so that they would best know how to work with him.
“One thing I do know is that he is a very confident kid, a very proud individual. He had no hesitation telling me that he was a number one pick, and he stood by it. I love the confidence and with that comes the courage to back it up and I don’t think that he lacks any courage in his ability, that’s for sure.”
And of course it’s more than courage and confidence that Yakupov brings.“When you look at the package that Nail Yakupov brings to our organization, we talked about bringing elite talent to our organization, and he’s hungry to perform. He’s hungry to score, he’s an emotional player, an explosive player. And so for us trying to figure out what that will look like with Hopkins, Hall, Eblerle, Paajarvi, Hemsky… Wow, exciting.”
The Oilers scouting and management team did try to make moves so that they could get another late first round pick, but when it didn’t happen, they felt comfortable with their early first round selection. Of course that means that they missed out on Oil King Henrik Samuelsson, who they were said to be quite fond of. Thankfully, Saturday’s list of available players is long, as is the Oilers’ scouting list.
But it is more than just drafting the the Oilers will be looking to do. They still have a number of RFAs that need qualifying offers by Monday that perhaps are in motion. That would be players like Sam Gagner and Linus Omark. By taking Yakupov, that is one less top six position for a player like Sam Gagner who has had his moments of brilliance, including his 8 point night against Chicago, but has lacked the consistency and scoring prowess that many had hoped he would show by now. If some of these players are not moved Saturday via trades, they can always be signed on Sunday.
Last year it was a balanced draft that Tambellini strove to find. But this year with the stockpile of prospects the team has accumulated, the goals are slightly different. “We’ll be looking to fill depth positions in our organizational chart. We’ve got a few specific areas that we would like to accomplish by position,” Tambellini explains.
“We have a lot of defence coming as far as our second first round pick last year Oscar Klefbom. He’ll probably join us within a year, David Musil who’s going to play in a couple of years. Marincin, Gernat, Dillon Simpson who is in North Dakota, so we have a stable of young players that we hope that most of them play in the National Hockey League. If you’re talking about trying to bolster our current lineup, well then yes, part of our goal through this next season is to hopefully add a piece or two.” And by adding a piece or two that will affect the team next year, Tambellini is looking to trade.
Now where the speculation over Yakupov is over, the speculation of trading partners begins.
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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.
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