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?

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?

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?

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.

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

  • Wax Man Riley

    If that is true what Tambo said “we like him…we want him” I think that is a true indication of what we will hear on June 22… The Edomnton Oilers are so proud to select from the Sarnia Sting Nail Yakupov and I for one am excited…add some size in our top 6 and we have the best group of
    Forwards in the league….

  • Lowetide

    DARREN DREGER (TSN) :

    Reported today that a trade in the works between Brian Burle and Steve Tambellini: JAKE GARDINER – NAZEM KADRI – (G) JONAS GUSTAFFSON – 5th Overall 2012 Pick for OILERS 1st Overall Pick and (G) Olivier ROY

    • Lowetide

      I heard the exact same trade rumor coming out of Toronto but waiting for Kevin Lowe and Darryl Katz approval first. Personally I think it’s an awesome trade. Insert Nazem Kadri with the boys. Insert The Monster with Dubnyk. Insert Jake Gardiner on the blueline. An quite possibly insert Filip Forsberg or griffin Reinhart. Welcome home boys. Welcome home.

    • DSF

      Finally Tambellini has done something right. Needs mommy an daddy to say yes first. I heard that same trade talk with TO and Edmonton on Sportsnet. I say I would rather pry PK Subban out of MTL.

    • DSF

      The only reason Olivier Roy was drafted was because people thought he was related to Patrick! Good riddance! He sucks! I would love to get the Monster out of Toronto. Imagine Dubnyk an Gustaffson in out crease. I CAN’T WAIT!

    • Jason Gregor

      This is your first and last warning. Quote a fake rumour on here again and falsely attribute it to a reputable guy and you’re blocked.

      Childish and ridiculous.

      Also those who believed this, you honestly think that moving up four spots in the draft was going to get you Kadri, Gardiner and Gustaffson.

      Good Gawd, Nation readers be better than that.

        • There’s only 1 NHLer in that list of 3. So The Oilers get a horrible goalie, the next Rob Schremp, a solid defenseman, and the 5th best player in the draft.

          I’d rather just take the best 18 yr old on the planet and call it a day, thanks.

        • Jason Gregor

          You actually think a team would part with Gardiner and the 5th for the #1? The Oilers would likely jump at that…cause one of Grigorenko, Galchenyuk or Forsberg most likely would be there at #5.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Compare the #1 to the #5 pick from the last 5-10-15 years…. How many times would jake gardiner make up the difference between those 2.

          • Wax Man Riley

            I know this is only a small sample and I am cherry picking players, but (and they were picked at #6)…..

            Would you rather have Nail or Gagner or Brule?

          • Jason Gregor

            So you know how good Gardiner is going to be? Interesting. Are you basing that on all the NHL games you’ve seen him play thus far, or because most D-men never improve as they get older?

            Tell me why you are certain Gardiner won’t be at least a top-four D-man, if not more?

            He was the 17th overall pick in 2008, a class that now is producing some very good D-men. Doughty, Pietrangelo, Myers, Karlsson, Del Zotto and Bogosian is a rung below but still very young.

            Gardiner stepped into NHL last year and didn’t look out of place. Sure he struggled at times, like almost every 1st year D-man, but suggesting he has no chance of being a solid #3 or 4 is premature.

            Yakupov will likely be a very good to great player, but if Gardiner becomes only #3 and either Galchenyuk or Grigorenko are #2 centres, then I’d argue that would help the Oilers much more than adding another scoring winger.

            No one knows if any of the three will be a lock, but if the Leafs offered up Gardiner the Oilers would take a long look at that deal, but Burke is unlikely to deal him at this point.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Who said he wouldn’t be a #3 or #4 Dman? I’m saying a #3 or #4 Dman shouldnt be enough to move down from Stamkos/Tavares/Kane/Thorton ever ect to Schenn/Schenn/Alzner/Brewer ect ect

            You are always saying the team that gets the beat player wins the trade….. I know which team almost always gets the best player in the above examples.

          • 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.

          • Wax Man Riley

            You think Kadri is only worth a 3rd round pick? I’d love to make trades with you. 81 points in 92 AHL games. Yes at the age of 20 he is a bum. Seriously, that is the most knee-jerk reaction ever.

            I know there is an age difference, but Omark’s 47pts in 46 AHL games, or Alex Giroux tearing the AHL up over his career are just 2 examples of the difference in caliber from the A to the N.

            They both out-performed Kadri, and I would like to see more than a 3rd round pick for either.

            Khabbi has similar NHL numbers to Gustavsson, so unless you get rid of Khabbi, it makes little difference, no?

            And I have no idea about Gardiner, but don’t the Oilers already have a bunch of 3-4 d-men?

            I have a really hard time making that trade.

      • CSimpson18

        “Also those who believed this, you honestly think that moving up four spots in the draft was going to get you Kadri, Gardiner and Gustaffson.”

        Gustaffson and, at this point, Kadri, are not valuable assets and would be available for a 3rd round pick or less. Their names shouldnt even be mentioned in the same breath as Nail yakupov.

        The question basically becomes, is Gardiner good enough to make up the difference between 1st and 5th. Keep in mind, Gardiner was recently traded for Francois Beauchemin. These types of players ARE available for far less than elite returns.

        Look at a few 1st overall versus 5th overalls in recent drafts and tell me if you think Gardiner makes up for the difference.

        Gardiner and Ryan Strome or RNH?
        Gardiner and Nino Niederreiter or Taylor Hall?
        Gardiner and Brayden Schenn or Tavares?
        Gardiner and Luke Schenn or Stamkos?
        Gardiner and Karl Alzner or Patrick Kane?
        Gardiner and Phil Kessel or Erik Johnson?
        Gardiner and Carey Price or Sidney Crosby?
        Gardiner and Blake Wheeler or Alex Ovechkin?

        IMO I’d only do 1 out of the 8 (Kessel). At the very least these trades are debateable and not, as you imply, a no-brainer.

          • Jason Gregor

            By your logic then the #15 pick is even to the #1 or #2 pick, because Karlsson was unreal this year.

            Suggsting the #5 pick this year will be like Schenn or that Yakupov will be the next Stamkos, one of the greatest snipers in last decade, is a stretch at best.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Go ahead and look at the years a forward was taken #1 and compare him to the #5 pick…Only time 5 was better in the last 15 years was Stefan’s year…. And in almost all of the cases a player the caliber or Gardiner wouldnt be near enough to make up the difference.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Hey Jason Gregor,

            When does Taylor Hall get the “C”? Everyone knows it inevitable he will be our next Captain, but when do u think we give to him. And does that make Eberle feel bad because maybe he thinks he should have it??

          • Jason Gregor

            I doubt either gets the “C” before they wear an “A” first. Lots of pressure being the captain, especially in a hockey market.

            I’m not sure it is a lock that Hall gets the C before Eberle though. Eberle isn’t as gregarious as Hall, but he has lots of good leadership qualities.

            It will be very interesting to see who the new coach gives the “A” to next year. He could do both, but if he only does one, you could argue that both are very deserving.

          • It really isnt that much of a stretch at all. History shows pretty evenly that the 1st pick is generally a special player and the dropoff can be very steep.

            By my logic the 1st pick is better than all of the other picks by a wide margin, and that includes picks 2-5. With that in mind I cant see how it could be twisted that I think 15 is equal to #1.

            Take pick 5 in any 5 draft years and compare it to pick 1. What would you rather have? Jake Gardiner’s 30 points plus the kid at 5 or the guy who went #1?

            I have no doubts. I would take the guy at 1.

          • 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…

          • But based on the history, and thats all I have to go on, there is no guarantee that the kid at 5 will be a 2C or a 3D. And why wouldnt history have any bearing on the draft? It’s a strong indicator of the 1st overall’s value compared to a lower pick.

          • Jason Gregor

            Sure #5 for #1 likely means 1 is better, but add in Gardiner and that changes things.

            Time will tell. And unless the Oilers actually pick at five we won’t know how they would take, so the point will never be proven.

        • Jason Gregor

          You think Kadri is only worth a 3rd round pick? I’d love to make trades with you. 81 points in 92 AHL games. Yes at the age of 20 he is a bum. Seriously, that is the most knee-jerk reaction ever.

          Why does it matter who a player was traded for? So if one GM under rated him, or over rated him, then the next GM has to keep the same value as him.

          Gardiner was traded before he played one NHL game, and most would say Burke fleeced the Ducks in that deal. But in your mind Gardiner isn’t that valuable because Bob Murray was dumb enough to trade him for an aging D-man.

          Did you notice that none of the #5 picks you mentioned, other than Schenn and Strome were centres. Way too early for anyone to suggest how good or average Schenn or Strome will be in next five years, so

          Fact is centres have a bigger impact than wingers, and considering Oilers could land a C at number five, the trade would look much better if it was actually on the table.

          • CSimpson18

            Point by point:

            “You think Kadri is only worth a 3rd round pick? I’d love to make trades with you.

            Why would my being stingy with my franchises’ assets make you want to trade with me? I don’t get it.

            “81 points in 92 AHL games. Yes at the age of 20 he is a bum. Seriously, that is the most knee-jerk reaction ever.”

            First off, he’ll be 22 in October. I didn’t call him a bum but the NHl is littered with middling prospects like this. He’s undersized, defensively deficient and has failed to solidify a roster spot despite Toronto’s desperate need in their top-6. He could easily go the way of Gilbert Brule and Patrick O’sullivan, and the potential upside just isnt that great.

            “Why does it matter who a player was traded for? So if one GM under rated him, or over rated him, then the next GM has to keep the same value as him.”

            My comment was intended only to show that this type of player IS traded from time to time, and the return never has anything to do with an elite player like Nail Yakupov. Edmonton USED to be great at finding players like this for pennies on the dollar (Jan Hejda, Tom Gilbert, Sean Brown etc.) Just be patient and proactive. Look at Ryan Mcdonagh. Heck, Justin Schultz is on the radar already.

            “Gardiner was traded before he played one NHL game, and most would say Burke fleeced the Ducks in that deal. But in your mind Gardiner isn’t that valuable because Bob Murray was dumb enough to trade him for an aging D-man.”

            Of course Burke fleeced Anaheim. So why can’t we do the same to some poor unsuspecting GM? Why does Edmonton always have to pay top dollar? We don’t have to contend next year anyway, we have time. We don’t NEED Gardiner, we NEED more elite talent.

            “Did you notice that none of the #5 picks you mentioned, other than Schenn and Strome were centres. ”

            I’m not really sure what the relevance here is.

            “Way too early for anyone to suggest how good or average Schenn or Strome will be in next five years, so”

            Of course it is. Just like it’s way too early to suggest how good or average Nail, Grigorenko or Galchenyuk will be. Nevertheless, here we are talking about it.

            “Fact is centres have a bigger impact than wingers, and considering Oilers could land a C at number five, the trade would look much better if it was actually on the table.”

            Best player available. Always with a lottery pick. Always. Draft the ace, don’t get hung up on jacks and queens just because they play a position you need more. By your logic, should we just draft Murray at #1 instead of Yak?

            Show me a top pick that was traded that actually benefited the team trading down. There’s a reason *smart gms dont do it.

          • Jason Gregor

            I never said I would trade the top pick, but that’s because teams never get legit offers for it.

            How many games of Kadri have you watched? You are writing off a 21-year-old already? And being stingy with assets, means you never gain anything of actual value.

            We’ll see in a few years how Kadri and Gardiner turn out.

            Suggesting that my logic dictates taking a D-man shows you never read the site. Has nothing to do with this argument.

            Trading down and staying in the top-five and acquiring a young, solid D-men is something to consider. Comparing that to taking Murray over Yakupov is not even close to what this point was.

            I’ve always said you take best player available, but if you get a LEGIT offer then I’d consider it. Especially because the best player is a winger, and wingers aren’t an area of weakness on the Oilers.

            You don’t think Gardiner is legit, but have to yet to say why. But considering you think Kadri is washed up at 21, I’m guessing you tend to write off players a tad prematurely.

          • CSimpson18

            With all due respect, Jason, you keep putting words in my mouth.

            I never said Gardiner isn’t legit. I said his inclusion is not worth missing out on Yakupov. Good gms find players of his caliber without giving up elite talent.

            I never said Kadri is washed up. I said he’s not an attractive piece in a trade that would send Yakupov to Toronto.

            The gist of my argument is that you don’t trade a dollar bill for 4 quarters. Not at this stage of the rebuild, when acquiring elite talent that will be under contract for 7 years (and guaranteed cheap for 3) should be the primary focus. We may never have this opportunity again.

            The pieces suggested to be coming from Toronto in this fake rumour are fine and would garner a nice return. I just don’t think it’s enough to ship off a talent of Yakupov’s stature. In most trades, the team trading the best player almost always loses.

            Would you trade Hall or RNH for the package in question?

          • Wax Man Riley

            I think your last line kind of “Nail”s it (sorry).

            I do NOT trade RNH in that deal. No way. No how. That is trading 3 “6s” for a 10. We already have(ish) an Omark(Kadri)

  • nullterm

    None of those players from Toronto would I trade for by losing the potential star we can have in Yakupov. Oilers do a trade like that and the backlash will be severe

  • nullterm

    Gardiner and the pick are the only real prizes in this deal the rest are throw in no impact nobody’s. Not worth a stud like Yakupov. I would lose my freakin mind if this happened! I’m already losing my mind at the thought of some people thinking this is a good deal!

  • Of course the Oilers are denying this. THEY DENY EVERYTHING. Like Renney getting fired. Then it happened. Just like Brent Sutter getting hired. Everybody and their dog knows Brent Sutter is the Oilers next Head Coach. So why is Tambo denying everything. And the Toronto-Edmonton trade today.
    I heard that nothing is official with the trade unless Kevin Lowe and big boss Darryl Katz say it is. Mr. Burke is waiting with his fingers crossed.

    We the fans watch them and buy the gear. And go to games and support this team so it’s not fair that mr. Secret has to lie to us.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Edmonton not having Galchenyuk on their prospect list speaks volumes about the Oilers amatuer scouting. It brings me comfort that they’ve been spayed/neutered and now are forced into taking the BPA. First overall is like having someone else do your homework for you and you still get the credit.

    That trade with the Leafs is abysmal. Why trade a hundred dollar bill for 3 twenties?

    It’s lie back and think of England time in Oilersnation. Don’t screw this up Steve, just walk up to the podium and take Yakupov.

  • DoubleJ

    If the Oilers get Gardiner that would up the chances of landing Schultz a lot. Not too sure if I like the deal. Gardiner has only played one season. Too soon to make this kind of decision. Probably a junk rumor.