These aren’t the best of times for Nail Yakupov.
After being a healthy scratch for consecutive games earlier in the week, Yakupov was put on blast by Russian Olympic scout Igor Kravchuk, currently analyzing NHLers in preparation for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
“He has to make up his mind, if he’s not going to change his game, then he has no future (in the NHL),” Kravchuk told TSN 1200 Radio Ottawa. “From what I see, his team game is really, really poor. He tries to do a lot of things by himself, he has absolutely no defense.
“That’s what really concerns us as scouts.”
Yakupov was one of the 35 players invited to Russia’s pre-Olympic camp held in late August. The 20-year-old, selected first overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is coming off a successful rookie campaign in which he led all first-year players in goals (17) and tied Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau in points, with 31.
That said, his sophomore campaign has been a disappointment.
New Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins scratched Yakupov for games in Toronto and Washington, saying the winger needed a “reset.”
Yakupov returned to the lineup for Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh but was ineffective, finishing minus-1 with just one shot on goal in 17:29 of action — this coming after he said “I’m not going to change,” adding, “I really don’t like skating all the time, and forechecking, and hitting somebody every shift.”
Yakupov’s rocky second season in Edmonton has landed him in the middle of trade rumors. Last night, one surfaced out of Buffalo involving goalie Ryan Miller and forward Thomas Vanek.