Eakins thinks Yakupov’s improving, but it’s a process

At first glance, this is shaping up to be another disappointing season for Nail Yakupov. The 2012 first overall pick has just two goals and four points in 12 games, but while he might be struggling offensively, Oilers coach Dallas Eakins has been encouraged by some of what he’s seen from the 21-year-old.

Eakins has been trying to help Yakupov make the transition from the Ontario Hockey League to NHL and while he’s made progress in that regard, it’s something that they need him to keep working on.

“We talk about it as coaches as muscle memory. His muscle memory reverts back to he got away with that in junior. It’s something that we think he’s improving on but it’s something we’re going to have to keep hammering home every day,” Eakins said, per the team’s website.

“He’s gotten away with a certain pace in junior and gotten away with certain plays. We don’t want to take those plays away from him because he’s very capable of making very conscious and excellent plays on his backhand. He can do it but he’s got to realize when the time is to do it and when the time is not.”

Yakupov had six shots on goal against Philadelphia on Tuesday. He doesn’t have anything to show for it, but Eakins thought he had some good chances. The hope is that it’s just a matter of time before Yakupov starts delivering on the promise that made him a top pick in the first place. Edmonton could certainly use all the help it can get as it tries to move beyond the rebuilding phase.

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