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.
Derek Roy’s agent understands why his client wasn’t re-signed by the Edmonton Oilers, but he “can’t believe” that one of the other 29 NHL teams won’t give the 32-year-old forward a contract.
“When (Oilers GM) Peter Chiarelli looks down the middle, he’s pretty small there with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, (Connor) McDavid’s not that big, Derek’s not that big, especially playing in the West. But I can’t believe nobody in the NHL will sign Derek,” Rob Hooper told the Edmonton Journal.
Roy started last season with Nashville before he was traded to Edmonton in December. In 46 games with the Oilers, he had 11 goals and 11 assists while earning partial credit for Nail Yakupov’s improved production.
“I was waiting for a center for three years,” Yakupov said in March. “It’s the first time I’ve had a really good center and I’m really happy for it.
“It’s easy to play with him. He can move the puck and he’s really smart. All I have to do is try to get open for a shot.”
Though Hooper concedes it’s “been very quiet for Derek,” he believes that some of that lack of interest can be attributed to the “cap issues” facing a number of teams.
Roy’s salary was just $1 million last season.
SUNRISE — On Friday night, the Oilers cashed their winning lottery ticket.
Edmonton did the expected to open the 2015 NHL Entry Draft at the BB&T Center, picking OHL Erie wunderkind Connor McDavid with the first overall selection.
In McDavid, Edmonton gets a franchise center that’s routinely drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. McDavid dominated the OHL this season and went on an amazing run during the playoffs, scoring an eye-bulging 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games and put together a highlight reel of goals.
The Oilers won the right to draft McDavid — dubbed a “generational talent” — after winning April’s NHL draft lottery. It marked the fourth time in six years the Oilers earned the right to pick first; previously, they drafted Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.
A dynamic player with elite-level skill and speed, it’s expected that McDavid will make an immediate impact in Edmonton next season — and the Oilers will need it. The club has struggled mightily over the last 10 years, failing to make the playoffs while struggling through a number of regime changes.
But the McDavid selection caps off what’s been a summer of transformation. There’s a new GM (Peter Chiarelli), a new head coach (Todd McLellan) and new hope for an organization that hasn’t been to the playoffs in an awfully long time.
Click here to read PHT’s McDavid draft profile.