Igor Larionov talks Yakupov, Galchenyuk and the 2012 Draft

After talking to Nail Yakupov, the Nation Network’s Andrey Osadchenko had a chance to sit down with his agent (and Hockey Hall of Famer) Igor Larionov.  Larionov represents not only Yakupov, but another player – Alex Galchenyuk – in contention for a top-five spot at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. 

AO: How did you start working with Nail Yakupov?

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IL: I talked to his father, Rail. I went to Nizhnekamsk to see him play three years ago. I wanted to get him to know better. I didn’t want to chat on the phone; I wanted to have a face-to-face talk. I talked to his family and himself. We discussed who he wanted to be and where he wanted to play. And we came to a conclusion that he wants to play in North America. He went there a few times for short tournaments and friendly games. He really liked it there. My job was to find the best possible team for him. I picked the Sarnia Sting. First of all, it’s with a one-hour drive from Detroit [where Larionov lives]. Second of all, the team is owned by Dino Ciccarelli’s family, and I played with him. Besides, they already had [Alex] Galchenyuk.

AO: How important is this?

IL: It is very important for Russian players to be in the right conditions and right hands to develop. You can’t just put a guy on a random QMJHL, OHL or WHL team. You have to be very picky about it or the guy will be lost. It’s very important for me that my guys are close to me. I want to be able to help them right away if they have any problems.

AO: Is it fair to say Yakupov has exactly what you want to see in a player?

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IL: Nail is certainly very talented. In everything. He’s always been a stand-out kind of person – even when he was a kid. He wants to be a leader. I spent a lot of time with him these past two years in Sarnia and I always saw this trace of character in him. It’s a good thing. He always wants to be the best, which means he’s getting to his goal little by little. There are other things he has developed – he responds to reporters in the right way. Besides, he doesn’t get excited about the draft that much anymore. He can’t control when he’s going to be picked – first, second or fifth. I understand it. These kids don’t. At his very first press conference in Sarnia he said: ‘I want to be #1, I want to be the player in the CHL and I want to help my team to win the championship’. All these years he did exactly what he said he would. He proved it not only with his talent, but with his work-ethic. He ‘lives’ in every shift. He steps on the ice and he enjoys playing hockey. He gives 120% every night.

AO: And that is something you like the most about him?

IL: Yes, indeed. I think hockey is a very simple game but a complicated one at the same time. In certain circumstances the players lose their valuable skills. My job – with all my knowledge of hockey and respect – is to talk to head-coach and general manager and explain to them how they should properly use players. It’s my priority. Before I put my player on any team, I’ve got to make sure what sort of team this is, who works in this team, what concept of player development do they have and so on. It’s really important that not only the player developed his talented and got familiar with North American type of hockey. There are no 17-year-old players who know everything. They think they do but they don’t. They say that 27-year-old Ovechkin has problems with his defensive game. What do you expect from an 18-year-old kid?

This is why it’s so important to make sure there are no misunderstandings with the coach. Every time I talk to a coach I point out that it’s very important for the kids to develop in the right way. They must use the opportunity to its maximum. They need to develop the skills they already have and learn new ones. Plus they need to be able to improvise.

AO: In Russian junior league – MHL – both Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko were third-liners. Why? Was their talent overlooked back home?

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IL: I’m not in a position to comment this. I don’t live there. Sure, I visit Russia and I am Russian. One thing I can say is that here the talent gets noticed. Here you’re given time to show what you’re capable of. Maybe they were under the radar in Russia because there they want older guys to play more. Maybe they thought it was too early for them to play on that level; I don’t know. This is what we‘ve got now, though – they weren’t noticed there, but here everyone can see they’re really good. You may not be ready physically, but if you’re ready moral-wise, psychologically and you feel like you’re ready to play – why shouldn’t you play? Here they trust you more and you can play. In North America the level of competitiveness is really high. I think the CHL has a better level of play than MHL. This is what I think. And I watch hockey here and there.

AO: You said it’s important that whatever team picks Yakupov, they need to make sure they need him. Do you think the Oilers need Yakupov?

IL: I talk to all NHL GMs. The day before this interview I talked to Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe. They really like Nail. However, at this point they can’t promise anything. The same goes for Columbus. Scott Howson, Craig Patrick and Tyler Wright spent two days in Sarnia with Yakupov and his family. It’s a serious indication they really want him. Usually if you want to get a player, you treat him as you would treat a stock. If somebody wants to buy your company’s stock, they’re going to run full research first. You invest in a player, and he is going to represent your team for years to come.

AO: What did the Oilers tell you?

IL: Tambellini told me: ‘We like him. We want him. But we’re going to make a decision the day before the draft’. I also know the Habs want to get one of my guys – either Nail or Alex [Galchenyuk]. So do the Leafs. It is possible that the Leafs are going to trade their draft pick and get both of them. There is a possibility like that. Nail and Alex went to New Jersey for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. After this they met Leafs GM Brian Burke. Then Nail met with the Habs.

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I look at the draft a little different. I look at the big picture. I don’t care when are they going to be picked. I want them to be picked by teams that play their kind of hockey. Because they have a bright future ahead of them. I want them to be in the right hands and in the right atmosphere. Whether it’s Columbus, Toronto or Islanders – it’s not important to me. The NHL is a very successful league, it’s doing well. I know these kids. I see how they work. I don’t see any problems for them. They’re going to be okay.

Recently by Andrey Osadchenko

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    It doesnt matter what the oilers need right now, whoever they get will likely not make a huge impact for at least a few seasons..the one player that could make an immediate impact IS Yakupov.
    Murray may be good enough now to play in the NHL, but will he ever be a 1-2 guy? His junior numbers sure dont suggest so and playing on an average to bad team is no excuse as history has shown..
    Gardiner has played one season in the nhl, will he ever be considered a great defencemen the way Yakupov very likely will be considered as a forward?
    Kadri..heard hes got work ethic issues, not a very fast skater either..we already have a harder working, more developed version of him in Gagner..
    Gustaffson..why is he even mentioned?

    Terrible trade..do you ever trade Hall, or RNH for those guys? Hell no, Yakupovs junior career suggests he will be every bit as good, if not better than those guys..

    And oilers DO in fact need more scoring..outside of the fab three, whose here long term on the wings? Hemsky? Wouldnt bet on it..all wing prospects in the system are still huge question marks..oilers need Yakupov as much as they need defence, and centermen..just cuz oilers dont have a great defenceman or great second line center right now does not mean that Murray or Grigorenko, or Galchenyk would become great at those positions..you take the bpa and fix holes through other means..

    Jeesh, whats wrong with kids these days..

  • You have to remember that getting Gardiner = getting Shultz too. If you don’t do this deal you are overestimating the value of a winger.

    Do you want one winger that gets 70 pts a year, or do you want say a center that gets 60 (if we draft Galchenyuk) + 2 d-men that get 40? That’s without including what Kadri will do in the future.

    Or, if we draft Reinhart, would you rather one winger that gets 70 pts or 3 d-men that can get 30-40 pts? Again this doesn’t mention Kadri yet.

    This is a team game. Yakupov can’t be on the ice all the time. If you think that the difference between Yakupov and Galchenyuk, or the difference between Yak and Reinhart isn’t worth Gardiner AND Schultz AND a one ppg AHL 21 year old (Kadri) then you are either completely overestimating the value of a winger, or you just don’t appreciate the future upside those 3 players can bring.

    • There is nothing to suggest that the Oilers couldnt get Schultz anyway. He cant be counted on at all as a part of the deal.

      Now we’re down to 1 winger who should be getting 70 points or more in his prime, Probably more, or a 40 point (Maybe, that’s a number he hasnt hit before) defenseman and the player chosen at 5. That kid taken at 5 probably wont be Galchenyuk considering the Oilers listed their top 5 and he wasnt on it. Take a look at the #5 picks from 2000-2010. Its a pretty sobering list of players. There are 2 guys in 10 years where you might think it was worth it to give up on the 1st pick if you also got assets. That’s 06 with Kessel who has averaged 55 points a season since he started, and Vanek in 03 who has averaged 64 points. The rest are in bust territory like Niederreiter and Chistov, or are good but unspectacular players like the Schenns or Whitney.

      The Oilers also had an AHL stud player with defensive issues. His name was Omark, I dont see the value in replacing him with Kadri. So no, I dont respect his potential upside. He hasnt shown it at the NHL level at all.

      Basicly, in your scenario the Oilers win the trade, but only if Yakupov only ever hits 70 points, Gardiner posts career high numbers (something I learned to stop expecting after Gilbert’s rookie year), Kadri overcomes all of his fatal flaws, and a UFA defenseman who is supposed to be better than Gardiner comes along for the ride.

      Pretty big gamble.

      • Basicly, in your scenario the Oilers win the trade, but only if Yakupov only ever hits 70 points, Gardiner posts career high numbers (something I learned to stop expecting after Gilbert’s rookie year), Kadri overcomes all of his fatal flaws, and a UFA defenseman who is supposed to be better than Gardiner comes along for the ride.

        Pretty big gamble.

        1. You forgot the #5 pick, which will probably be Reinhart if the Oilers do this. Unrealistic to expect this guy to get 30 pts in his prime? Why is Stu looking at him in the top 5 if he is just some 10-20 pt shutdown guy?

        2. You are suffering from Tom Gilbert Syndrome if you think it is unrealistic to expect a 22 year old (he turned 22 a few days ago)d-man to actually improve as time goes on. He got 30 pts in his rookie year, and looked like a stud in the Marlie/OKC series that I saw a few weeks ago. It is not a gamble for me to think that he will be getting 40 pts a year in his prime. He could get more but I’m not betting on it.

        3. I am betting that having Schultz’s good college buddy Jake Gardiner combined with the opportunity at defence available here gives the Oiler’s by far the best chance to sign Justin Schultz. That’s what a GM should do, give us the best chance possible to succeed. Signing Schultz would be a HUGE success, as in take years off the rebuild success.

        4. Kadri = Omark!?!? Come on man, Kadri is 21 and Omark is 25. That’s a million years apart in development terms, never mind the crappy public attitude issue. If you want to discount Kadri as a bust at this point there is little I can say to change your mind.

        I bet that in the long run even without Schultz signing here (which is not the point, the point is to put your team in the best position to sign him) this trade will be viewed as an overpay by TO.

    • CaptainLander

      “You have to remember that getting Gardiner = getting Shultz too.”

      Being as we are playing a speculation game with no facts.

      I keep Yakupov, he scores 35 goals and 62points as a rookie. Then I trade him for Weber after signing Suter this summer.

      See now I have Weber and Suter for Yakupov, pretty good huh.

      • Why don’t you tell me where the wild speculation is on my part instead of flying off the handle and adding nothing to the conversation?

        All I am trying to show is that trade scenario is such a massive overpay by T.O. that it would never happen in reality.

        • CaptainLander

          Your seeming fact that having Gardiner will get you Schultz

          See – OB1 Team Yakopov – F.S.T.N.F

          It bothers me when people make things up and use it as an factual argument, it make me fly off the handle apparently.

    • CSimpson18

      Your logic is flawed. It’s not 1 “70 Point” winger versus 3 30-40 point dmen. It’s 1 potential 100 point winger and 3 dmen acquired through other trades, UFA or developed internally versus 3 30-40 point dmen.

      30-40 point dmen are acquired fairly often. And never as a return for elite talent. You should know this as an Oiler fan, where we’ve been starved for elite talent for a generation but have always had our share of pretty not-bad.

      • Your logic is flawed. It’s not 1 “70 Point” winger versus 3 30-40 point dmen. It’s 1 potential 100 point winger and 3 dmen acquired through other trades, UFA or developed internally versus 3 30-40 point dmen.

        30-40 point dmen are acquired fairly often. And never as a return for elite talent. You should know this as an Oiler fan, where we’ve been starved for elite talent for a generation but have always had our share of pretty not-bad.

        Excellent. I shall look forward to the acquisition of 3 30-40 pts d-men in the offseason. We shall get them for free apparently. Let’s do it.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Jason Gregor

    “I’m not an advocate of trading the #1 pick, but those who think Tor would actually offer Gardiner are dreaming. It doesn’t happen.Few teams move out from #1, because the offers are never worth it, and GMs have told me in the past they’ve never had a legit offer to even consider.

    Look at the Pronger trade for instance…Sure Oilers lost it right away, but now five years later they have Eberle and Smid from that deal.

    Some would argue that today and for next few years Oilers will win that deal.

    Some trades take time to work out. Yakupov would likely be biggest impact player right away, but considering Oilers desperately need help at C and D, if that deal was offered I’d seriously think about it.

    I will ask some NHL management types their thoughts tomorrow.”

    Well I’m relieved they wouldn’t offer Gardiner + 5 for #1… then theirs no risk of the trade taking place.

    2nd line centers are guys like Weiss, Grabovski and Brassard, second pairing Dmen are guys like Nick Leddy, Brad Stuart and Sami Salo. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take guys like Tavares, Stamkos and Hopkins over 2 of the guys I listed about, any day.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Jason Gregor

    “Having doubts in fine. The question is if a #2 centre and a #3 D-man would help this team more than another RW.

    The fact previous #5 picks have been duds, has no bearing. Stu MacGregor never picked any of them. If you have faith that he drafts the right talent, then they would look at the deal.

    I can’t explain why #5 and #6 picks have been more duds than studs over the years, but that has no bearing on this deal.

    If that was the case, wouldn’t every team trade down from #5 to draft lower cause we’ve seen lots of solid players come from #7 and lower…”

    The fact that number #5 picks (and it’s not just #5) have been duds is everything!

    History has proven that draft picks get exponentially worse as you move down the order.

    Even just the drop off from the avearge #1 to the average #3 is huge! Going to 5 compounds it.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ SK

    It’s speculation that landing Gardiner = Landing Schultz

    It’s speculation that Yakapov is a 70 point player

    It’s speculation that Whomever is 2C is a 60 point player.

    • But it isn’t speculation that having Gardiner gives you a better chance than the other 29 teams to land Schultz. It has value.

      Yes it is speculation about how many points this year’s draftees will achieve in their prime, but is it unreasonable speculation?

      Nowhere did I try to present my opinions as fact. Maybe I need to qualify every fun armchair GM session on this site with “Oh yeah and in no way does my opinion represent fact all rights reserved™” but it would be better if you would, like a normal person, assume that.

      The fact is, a lot of people on here seem to be rejecting this pretend trade proposal outright, and I think that says something about us as fans.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I would not have a lot of interest in Kadri or Monster.

    If they said Schenn, Gardiner, and pick #5 for Roy and our #1 I would jump at it.
    Two more very solid d prospects, plus the inside track to Schultz would improve our future immensely. If Galnychuck was still available at 5 we would be laughing. Without his injury I believe this would have been another Hall or Seguin race. On a do-over I would still take Hall, but not if Seguin came with Schenn, Gardiner, and Schultz.

    If we got Gal with the 5th I say we win this trade by a huge margin.

  • Cody brings up a very important point. This draft year is not like the others. Several of the top picks had been injured most of the year. This skews their value. Who can say what Galchenyuk would be rated if he had played all year? Who can say what Grigorenko would have done without mono? How does Couturier look now? Would Fowler still go so late in a redraft?

    Some of these players are going to slide and some team is going to get huge value for their late top 5 or 10 pick.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ SK

    Well going through history, I’d bet you are low balling what a 1st OV typically scores and over rating what a #5 OV typically scores.

    I would think it’s closer to 75 points vs 45 points (on average)

    then it is 70 points vs 60 points

    • I really believe that if the Oilers had Gardiner, Schultz would sign here. It is a fact (that it is my opinion).

      If we drafted Yak, would anyone trade Eberle and Roy for Gardiner, the #5, Kadri and Gustavsson?

      It might amount to sacrilege, but I guess I would. I don’t want to trade Eberle, but I think I would for this package. The #5 this year will probably be looked back on as a #2 or #3 in a redraft.

      EDIT: For the record I’d rather have Eberle and his relationship with Hall than Yakupov. I’m just playing with the trade idea by substituting Eberle for Yak to reframe the issue and see where it leads.

  • Lummeropenet

    Draft Yakupov. This will squeeze out a player or two from the middle or bottom of the line-up, either right away or in a year or so. Then make a move for need. There will be a Murray or Rielly or Reinhart in the future to deal for or sign. In the mean time the oil shouldn’t have a problem scoring (like New Jersey has). There are always players available out side the draft who will sign on to a team that is closer to the top than the bottom.

    Burke traded Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and 2012nd rounder Jared Knight for Phil Kessel.

    Draft Yakupov and deal from strength later if needed.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ SK

    I think trading great for a bunch of good, rarely works
    Guys like Gardiner, Kadri and a long list of 5th OV picks are alot easier to aquire using other methods then guys like Eberle and Yak are.

  • Oilers4ever

    If Toronto picks 5th, I dunno what kinda trades they think they can pull off to get both. If you trade up with Edmonton to get number one you have to give up your 5th overall pick. Toronto does not have ANY players that could add up to enough value not to get that pick back. So unless you have two of the top four picks, you don’t have a hope in hell in pulling this off.

    Typical Burke….