Nail Yakupov is going to be a fascinating kid to watch next season. It’s assumed he’s going to have a spot waiting for him in the Oilers lineup when the season starts, but he’s not taking anything for granted.
“So far I just want to make the team. I want to prove with work and the way I play that I deserve to be on the team. I want to get as much ice-time as I can. I want my team to win. I want to get a lot of points. I want to feel comfortable on the team. I don’t want to be in the limbo. I want to be a part of the team. I don’t want to be an up-and-down guy. And I want to be the best (laughs).”
Given the Oilers’ poor play for the past few seasons, finding a place for a kid with as much talent as Yakupov shouldn’t be hard, especially with Taylor Hall possibly missing the start of the season following a shoulder operation.
Now if they can get Yakupov to help the defensemen and goalies, then he might be even better than the Oilers imagined. Landing the Russian Reggie Dunlop would be pretty sweet.
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It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.