Compared to rookie sensation Connor McDavid, Nail Yakupov is a relative veteran of the NHL. Considering his bumpy path through three seasons, it’s no surprise that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of showing McDavid the ropes.
“I don’t think I’ll be a teacher. I’m too young for that,” Yakupov told the Edmonton Journal. “We’ve got lots of old guys to tell him things.”
Actually, judging by his interesting interview with the EJ, the 21-year-old may feel a little wistful that his substitute teachers won’t return to his side in 2015-16.
Yakupov acknowledged the chemistry he eventually developed with Derek Roy, a UFA sitting on the sidelines this summer.
“Especially a guy like Derek, who has played in the league for 10 years. He’s seen everything in the game. He could help a young kid like me,” Yakupov said. Soon as Derek got the puck, I was trying to get open for a shot.
“He gave me so much support and I was happy to be playing hockey again.”
Let’s highlight that last phrase: “I was happy to be playing hockey again.”
Just spit-balling here, but Roy could probably be had for a cheap price, and you could pair Yakupov with him for a third scoring duo outside Taylor Hall – Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. The veteran and his pupil don’t represent the same threat that those other duos pose, yet they could enjoy some success against lesser opponents.
With Yakupov also needing to adjust from one Todd (Nelson) to another (McLellan), you almost get the impression that the Russian winger got the rug taken out from underneath him.
It’s a fascinating situation to watch, as he’s still very much in a sink-or-swim phase.