YAKUPOV: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The old saying is you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If that’s true, Nail Yakupov did considerably better in his audition in front of reporters at Rexall Place today than I did with him. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to take another swing at it after June 22.

With Yakupov, 18, being the consensus top prospect for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the Edmonton Oilers holding the first overall pick for the third consecutive year, there’s a good chance the dynamic Sarnia Sting winger will be back in town when training camp opens this fall.

Already run ragged by a schedule that included fitness testing and interviews with 18 different teams at the NHL Combine, plus a trip to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup mismatch between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, Yakupov was witty and accommodating in his command performance with local media.

As everybody leaned in on Yakupov outside the dressing room, I lobbed the first question. Figuring humour would be a good ice-breaker, I asked Yakupov what I thought was a decent opener: "So, are there any questions you haven’t heard yet?" Apparently there was a communication breakdown – or I’m just slurring my words again.

"I’m not hurt right now, so I’m good," Yakupov said. I don’t want to talk about my injuries." With that, it was on to the next question. Thanks for coming. "Uh, Nail. It I said "heard" not hurt . . . never mind."

Not the first player to think I’m a jerk . . .

GIFT OF THE GAB

Spending 15 or 20 minutes with a player like Yakupov in a staged meet and greet doesn’t lend a whole lot of honest insight into what makes a kid tick. That said, he was impressive, given the circumstances, and loose, given the format. He tossed out a couple of pretty good lines, actually.

Asked by CTV’s Adam Cook if he’d been asked any odd questions by the Oilers, Yakupov said: "Do you have a girlfriend? That was a question." So Terry Jones of the The Sun chimed in: "About the girlfriend. What did you say?" "I have two,’ Yakupov said."One in Sarnia and one in Russia . . . I’m going to try for a third in Edmonton, so we’ll see."

When Jason Gregor asked a question that’s on the minds of a lot of Oilers fans – if Yakupov would be as comfortable playing on left wing as opposed to the right side, where he usually plays – Yakupov was quick on the draw with the wit again. "I can be a goalie, too," he said. "I think I could be left and centre and defense."

So it went. Not altogether painful for a staged event where pat answers – "I think (fill-in-the-blank) is a good hockey town" and "I’d be happy to play for the (insert-name-of-team-here)" – are the norm. Yakupov’s discussion with us is here. Mikhail Grigorenko and Ryan Murray will take a run at the same bit later this week.

All things considered, Yakupov came off just fine, especially after having to overcome the loaded question about injuries that limited him to 42 games this season from the knucklehead reporter trying to play hardball right off the hop.

Heard, Nail. Not hurt. Let’s take another run at it, say June 22, shall we?

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • OilerLand

    I felt for all you media folks during this one. I think Tencer asked a question about all of this finally being over or something and Yakpov answered about the Stanley cup finals. LOL

    Seems like a funny dude and I’ll be sad if he’s not an Oiler June 22.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Sounds like a bad episode of “The Champ”. At least you didn’t ask if he “had a girlfriend in Regina”. Could have gotten ugly.

    I says pardon …

  • SLURVE

    I like this kid already. He has confidence, maturity and passion. He wants to win and have fun at the same time. Top russian (I repeat “top”, did I say “Top”or at-leech-nah translated from Russian) players do not bolt for KHL ex. Ovie, Kovy, Malkin, Datsyuk because they can get the ice time, recognition and the money while playing in the best league. I would think Yakupov falls into that slot.

  • Reg Dunlop

    He would be an excellent choice. If we add a soon to be 6’4″ power forward whose won 2 cups, averages 20+ goals/ yr (save for one off season), plays solid both ways and is only 29 our forwards would be set πŸ™‚

    • Terran

      I’m assuming you’re talking about Penner. The trouble is he forgets he should be a power forward sometimes. But I’d love to have him (and his amazing playoff beard) back.

      By the way, what the hell was up with the HNIC crew advocating taking Quick out tonight? Healy’s an idiot, so no big surprise there, but then Simpson and Hughson chimed in on it too.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I saw on a highlight reel Yak’s stick-riding goal celebration, ala Tiger Williams. If whoever coaches him next year doesn’t rein him in, there will be some seriously choked opposition players, possibly some team mates that feel the same way and LOTS of fans and media that will be thankful.

    Does anyone know if Columbus has scheduled a meet and greet with Yak?

  • striker777

    “Some very good young players WE HAVE” said Yakupov during his interview with Stauffer. Then he corrected himself by adding “THEY HAVE”. I know Nail is just learning English, but I like he started identifying with the Oilers.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      LOL!

      Yes,the English language can be a weird one. The parking on driveways and driving on parkways confused me for a while.

      And to this day I still have a huge hate-on for silent letters. WTF is the point?

      The more I see and hear of Yakupov, the more I like him.

  • Pronger's Wife

    Hopefully Yakupov passed the “really good person” test that Tamby always talks about. I think this kid would add some more jam into an already exciting line young line up.

    Here’s a thought – could the Oil by choosing Yakupov have a better shot at luring Justin Schulz? Schulz would clearly be top 4 D (maybe top 2) if he was in the line-up next season. If Oil choose Murray, he would obviously cut into the minutes that a Schulz would play.

    Final point, is it not curious that the Oil will bring Grigorenko to Edmonton and not Galchenyuk? Galchenyuk is rated # 2 on some lists. Interesting…

    • Gerald R. Ford

      More for the rest of us, good citizen! I love the Oil, but the mighty pig is far too noble (i.e. delicious) a beast to abandon merely to show solidarity.

      Speaking of solidarity and wonderful breakfast foods, I hope we all consider killing a stack of pancakes Thursday morning to commemorate the former 27 hoisting beloved Stanley above his head Wednesday night. He may not wear the copper and blue any more, but he helped to stick a knife in the heart of Vancouver, he doesn’t mind poking fun at himself, and he loves his wheat-based beverages. That, Nation, is a man worth acknowledging. Good on ya, D.P.

    • Bucknuck

      That is the glory of drafting the kids instead of going after free agents. They will be under contract, and if the cap is too restrictive, you can trade them!

    • If the Kings can fit Kopitar, Richards, Brown & Carter, plus Doughty under the cap I think it is doable. Of course a Cup win will make their next round of contracts a challenge. Plus Quick will command a huge payday.

      Can Tambo do it? That is a tougher question…

    • justDOit

      Rumours exist that the cap will be nearly $70M next season, and the owner has stated that he will spend to the cap, if required. Horc’s large cap hit will be coming off the books soon as well.

      I haven’t crunched the numbers, but just because Glenn Healy says the Oilers have to trade the pick because they can’t afford all these young stars, don’t let that worry you. I long for the day that Healy is the GM of the Leaves.

      Edit: typo

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Ya lets just draft a worse player so they will make less money…

      The Oilers will have 4 (potential) all stars, if they can’t fit them in the roster then Tambo should go play another round of monopoly.

      And when players are good and the team is good then the Oilers can get those veteran bottom pairing guys for cheaper contracts because they want to win a cup and instead of paying 5 mill for Hemsky to keep him from leaving as a UFA he would ask for 4 just to stay (made this up but it could happen)

  • The Soup Fascist

    @ The Real Scuba Steve

    The way the Euro is going we can pay Hemsky in Czech Korunas, Yakupov in Rubles and all the Swedes in Kronas. Chelios would make a come back for a few thousand Drachmas. Sign a couple of Italian 4th line muckers once the Lira is back in vogue and . . . voila!

    Salary Cap? What Salary Cap.

    PS I have to ask . . . Was there a “Fake” Scuba Steve?

  • The Soup Fascist

    @ Just Do It

    C’mon man! Glen Healy could not manage a two car parade. There is no way an oft-concussed, half-wit, shell-shocked ex-goalie could look after a storied franchise like the Leafs.

    How could he could be mentioned in the same breath as Brian “Two Firsts” Burke, Cliff “Mr. Interim” Fletcher – twice, uhh John (no nickname needed) Ferguson Jr, er, “Famous” Floyd Smith, Gord “the Kid” Stellick, Punch “Punch” Imlach…….

    Er, upon further reflection Healy may actually be over qualified. Did not think that was possible . . . .

  • oldhippy

    I’m going to assume that you are not Marioandthepens, a frustrated Flames fan, who posts this question all the time on tsn threads.

    The Black Hawks have no fewer than six players making over $5m, four of them forwards. Given Jim Matheson’s estimation that Eberle will warrant $6m, if he has another season like the last. And given that Hall would have to put up even bigger numbers to garner that kind of contract……Chicago has $34.7m committed, for 13 forwards, for the upcoming season. Of the 13 forwards, 7 make less than $1m each.

    So if the fab four(including Yak) reach the level of performance to rate the kind of money that Hossa gets, I would suggest that would be a good thing, and we haven’t yet reached that point.(the reply function didn’t work, this is in reply to Real scuba steve)

  • Oiler Country

    You mentioned asking Yakupov a question on two on June 22, so (begin mouth breathing..)Are you going to the draft in Pittsburgh? Like physically there?

    I do remember when there was one draft you didn’t go and oilersnation got together to send you and Gregor.. Good times. Just looking to see if I have to save some pennies to donate to a cause like that again.. Anyways..Looking forward to your many articles while you are there.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The eyes are the window to the soul….

    Looking at the first image of Nail, even with a smile on his face, those eyes, are the eyes of a killer.

    Many opponents dreams will die on the frozen canvas that is Rexall Place because of this kid.

    That kid is a killer, take him please. I don’t think i could bear to watch him come into RX1 in a different jersey, and see what he’s going to do to the Oilers over the next 15 yrs.

  • “You mentioned asking Yakupov a question on two on June 22, so (begin mouth breathing..)Are you going to the draft in Pittsburgh? Like physically there? I do remember when there was one draft you didn’t go and oilersnation got together to send you and Gregor.. Good times. Just looking to see if I have to save some pennies to donate to a cause like that again.. Anyways..Looking forward to your many articles while you are there.”

    The plan was to have me go to Pittsburgh with Gregor, but the draft conflicts with a visit from overseas by a family member, so I’m staying home. I’ll be keeping tabs from here. Maybe next year.

  • denmanlives

    Please sign Marc Crawford. He took helped give the Avalanche their Stanley Cup in 1996 and he can also help the Oilers get their Stanley Cup with this team.