Edmonton Oilers

If the Edmonton Oilers take the player deemed the best available by every recognized scouting outfit on the planet with the first pick at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, they’ll be walking to the podium with Nail Yakupov’s name on a jersey, as they should. I know, this just in . . .

While there might be handful of dissenters among the people who actually assess talent for a living or a genius packing numbers that show the Oilers should pass on Yakupov because he scored an alarming number of his points in games where a suspiciously high percentage of the crowd was wearing long-sleeved shirts, that’s the overwhelming consensus.

And it’s a selection, not knowing or having seen the top-ranked prospects at the head of the 2012 draft class like Stu MacGregor and the Oilers scouting staff has, I can’t take issue with. I might have more difficulty if the Oilers opt for Everett defenseman Ryan Murray, as rumblings out of Pittsburgh lead us to believe they might, but, again, MacGregor, Bob Brown, Kent Hawley and Edmonton’s staff know Murray far better than I do, as well.

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While I’m impressed with Yakupov’s Sarnia teammate Alex Galchenyuk and think he better fits the organization’s needs in terms of position, nothing trumps the need for a team that’s missed the playoffs six straight years than taking the BPA. Here and now, Yakupov is that player. It doesn’t hurt, in my estimation, he also has a swagger to him. This team could use some of that.

MacGregor didn’t go out of his way to sing the praises of Yakupov in the discussions we’ve had, but I believe he sees the dynamic winger as the BPA as well, regardless of all the talk about this selection being a far closer call than it was with Taylor Hall in 2010 or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011.

Blowing smoke, I say. All hail Nail.


NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 among North American skaters

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The Hockey News: No. 1

McKeen’s Hockey: No. 1

Red Line Report: No. 1

TSN: No. 1



In 2011-12, he recorded 69 points (31-38-69) in 42 games for Sarnia, leading the team with 12 power-play goals and a plus-15 rating in an injury-shortened season.

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In 2010-11, he led his team and Ontario Hockey League rookies in scoring with 101 points (49-52-101) in 65 games. It was the most points by a first-year player since Patrick Kane had 145 points in 2006-07. His scoring also surpassed Steven Stamkos’ team records for goals (42) and points (92) by a Sarnia rookie. He was named the OHL Rookie of the Year and the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year last season.

Yakupov represented Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championships. He tied for the tournament lead in assists with nine (0-9–9) helping Russia win silver — he recorded four assists in the semifinal against Canada.


NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards

“His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft, in my opinion.

“He really gets up to top speed very quickly and his hands are outstanding. Like Pavel Bure, Yakupov is dangerous every shift. He may not have been dominant on every shift like Bure was, but he created something every shift … you have to be aware where he is on the ice all the time.”


Scouting Report: “He’s a skilled and dynamic offensive talent. He’s got over-the-top confidence, there’s no doubt. As long as you can back it up.”

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Projection: “It’s pretty safe to say he’s going to be a player who plays on your top two lines.”

Weaknesses: “He needs to learn the defensive side of the game and, like a lot of these young players, he needs to find consistency.”

NHL Comparable: “He’s probably a little bit like Valeri Kharlamov, for those who go back that far. As far as NHL players, people have said they see some Pavel Bure there.”

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

  • striker777

    I wonder if my swagger-meter needs to be re-calibrated. I found this kid to be very appreciative of what he has and he seemed to me to have humility to spare. Confident yes, cocky no.

  • striker777

    Stu says he reminds him a little of Valeri Kharlamov? Wow. Forget Bure. As us old timers know, Kharlamov may have been the greatest ever Russian. In the 72′ series, he was in a class by himself, an incredible burst of speed, magic hands, heart-stopping finesse and hungry to win. Totally unstoppable – until Bobby Clarke broke his stick over Kharlamov’s ankle. No way we win the series otherwise.
    If Tamby says they will draft by need if the top two are equal he cannot pick Murray because Yak and Murray are not equal. The Oil liked Hall’s hunger for the honour and responsibility of being the Number One pick. They should love Yak too.
    Good column Robin. You amde my day.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ready, I will now construct the best team in the entire league.

    1: Draft Yakapov

    2: Trade Gagner, and our 2013 number one for Columbus number 2 pick, if you need, throw in one of our 11 defensive prospects.

    3: Draft Gal with at number 2

    4: Trade Magnus for Ryan Ellis

    5: Sign Shultz

    6: Promote Hartikinen

    7: Sign Smyth to a one year deal with a bonus structure

    8: Get free agent goal tender that has better stats than Habby (literally every free agent goal tender has better stats than Habby)

    Your line up is now this:
    Hartikinen, Nuge, Ebs
    Hall, Gal, Yak
    Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky
    Petrell, Belangier, Jones

    Smid, Petry
    Shultz, Shultz
    Ellis, Whitney

    Dubnyk, ?

    Note: This team will not be good this year, we will not make the playoffs. But after that, It’s nothing but cups. You have size on every line, Insane skill on the top two. The best vet line in the league, the best forth line in the league, a top PP, a solid PK, better goal tending than this year (anything other than habby is an upgrade) but a young defense that needs a year. After that year though. I would worry about the young age, But the Nuge Ebs line, so what if they’re not two way (even though the numbers state they are) they get a bucket load of points. Hall, by himself right now backs off the defense, with size at center and Yak on the right, that could one day become the best line in Hockey. A vet hard minute shut down line at third, and a face off winning, body banging, high energy forth line. And all it took was a 1st round pick, a blue chip prospect, a proven second line center. If you think I’m being unrealistic and it would take more than listed to get the second round pick and Ellis out of Nashville, well we have more to give, I didn’t mention Omark, Lander, a number of defensive prospects.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I’m sorry but to anyone who thinks the Oilers should draft Murray at #1, you need to stop huffing glue. Murray might not ever be a top 2 Dman. Good skater, decent defender, but very very limited offensive skill. If your taking a defenseman at #1, he better be the next Pronger.

    I hope the Oil trade the #1 pick to Montreal along with Omark/MPS for their #3 and PK Subban. That way they can pick the best player in the entire draft (Galchenyuk) and get a top 2 Dman that fits the youth movement.

    A lot of people are forgetting that Galchenyuk was hurt for nearly this entire year, and yet scouting still has him rated top 5. That tells you something.

    RNH and Galchenyuk as our top two Centerman for the next decade sounds good to me. Look at any successful team and they have good players up the middle, complemented by wingers, not vice versa.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing them swap Gagner for Carolinas #8 as well and hopefully grab Matty Dumba or Grigorenko. However, none of this will happen, and we’ll take a cocky Russian winger and have Horcoff centering the poor f*&ker for the next 2 years. Hello lottery.

  • striker777

    wow talk about making bold statements,now he’s a locker room cancer i have never heard that,why if someone has a little personality and not just the boring agent rehearsed answers do people start talking crap about a kid they have never meet!

  • striker777

    There are alot of eastern media types playing down Yakupov as maybe someone whose stock has dropped. Based on what evidence? The hockey blogger whose ‘name will not be spoken’ now says Yakupov may have dropped to #3. Are there certain media types who are trying to talk the Oil out of selecting Yak #1 overall? StuMac was even sowing seeds of doubt earlier today.

    Several people have suggested Murray reminds them of KLowe. That would not be a favourable recommendation in my view. Take BPA and be done with it. Trade for either another draft pick or for a D=man. Yandle would fit. My call on the draft and July 1 is another display of dithering from the chief ditherer. Someone needs to push him out of the way and get ‘er done.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Wow didnt think I would need to do this again..
    Some still think Galchenyuk is a better pick than Yakupov..

    -as 16 year olds, they played together, played close to same amount of games, Yakupov outscored Galchenyuk by nearly 20 points..and had a better plus minus.

    -as 17 year olds Galchenyuk played 8 games including playoffs, yakupovs ppg improved and his plus minus took a huge leap forward.

    How can someone possibly see Galchenyuk as the bettet prospect at this time? Cuz hes a center? So is Brenden Gaunce..Roughly same size, decent junior numbers..

    He may turn out to be the best, but we dont know..
    Too many excuses for everyone but Yak. Too many couldve, wouldve, shouldves..

    -Galchenyuk missed season due to injury but wouldve been just as good as yakupov
    -Grigorenko had mono, otherwise wouldve challenged for top spot no problem
    -Murray had an injury, thats why he didnt perform well at the world juniors..
    And oh yeah, Yakupov, injured his knee at the world juniors..ended the season only scoring at a higher ppg pace than is previous season..before injury was well on pace for over 110 points..

    Yakupov is the only one that SIUTBUC’ed of whatever u call it.

    May not be the best player in the drafy 5 yrs from now, but probably will be..if not, hes got enough character and skill and speed to be a great oiler for many years..

  • striker777

    I like Yakupov skill to knock pucks down, vision and puck control at high speed. On our aging Rexall ice pucks are bouncing all over the place.

    Yak is definitely not as polished as Taylor Hall and I hope media leave him alone. Not sure how to read into his statement that he’s ready to play in the NHL. That maybe so, but the way he says it worries me a little. What if he’s not ready? Does he have a back-up plan? Hopefully, our scouts discussed it with him and its taken care of.

    Happy Stu MacGregor Day everyone !!!

  • striker777

    I really hope they pass on Murray. He is not what the team needs. If they are going d-man with the first pick then the best idea I have heard to land a top end d-prospect was on the 1260 morning show – trade the #1 to Boston for Dougie Hamilton.

    On the flip side, I hope they are putting the rumor out that they are taking Murray as an attempt at leverage with Columbus……..

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @Reg Dunlop

    ….and Murray is going to lead us out of the callar? His 8-12 pedestrian minutes a night is hardy going to put a dent into the season. Ryan’s not going to lean on anyone, he’s not going to put up alot of points…he’s a support player, nothing more.

    We can only hope this is just some last moment posturing from Edmonton. Please let it be Galchenyuk or Yakupov, they are our only shot at an impact/elite player in this draft.

  • striker777

    I don’t think the Oilers are out of the woods in terms of assembling the talent level necessary to be a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Pittsburgh had four top 2 selections. They took Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Fleury. Each were can’t miss prospects in their respective draft years. The Oilers should play it safe and take the can’t miss guy in this draft year. Let Stu MacGregor maximize the value of the draft pick. It will be Tambi’s job to find Dmen and power forwards to complement the talent, just as Pittsburgh added Letang, Goligoski and Neal via trade, Paul Martin via free agency, etc.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Draft Nail then trade Hemsky for NHL quality D. Even if they draft Murray he is at least a year from really helping the D and the oil will have another top 5 pick next year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Will, I was going to make this suggestion, however next year’s 1st + Gagner for Columbus’s 2nd overall is an overpay. I would want a Dman back. I would throw in Peckham or Plante or Omark.

    I would also look at trading Belanger to Mtl for Moen. I would try to sign Konopka this summer and add 2 NHL journeymen, with the hope that Justin Schultz chooses the Oil. I would look for Tootoo or Gaustad as other truculence options.

    I would look at moving Eager to get a Dman, if unsatisfied with the UFA market. Sekera would be my #1 target.

    I would hang on to Khabby as he could serve as a mentor to Yak and Gally, as long as he isn’t “serving” them, lol. Then look at moving Khabby at the trade deadline if he has played as poorly as he has to date.

  • This all sounds familiar. Garth Snow, Tavares or Hedman, forward or D….

    To me it seems like draft day is supposed to have a little bit of drama now, much of it the doing of TSN panelists. Yes they are the most informed, however, I guarantee their “insider information” tweets lead to higher TV audiences for the draft. No one could have believed the Oilers could take anyone but the Yakattack until Dreger posted one tweet.

    Tavares or Hedman? Taylor or Tyler? RNH or Larsson? Nail or Murray?

    Tonight at 7:10 pm Nail Yakapov will be an Edmonton Oiler.

  • Robin,

    I thought I read that they were going on a “gut” feel or just speculating? Are they not just “throwing it out there”? Granted they apparently have a better insight given their access to the inner circle.

    Most of us thought Murray playing with Team Canada was a tell… We have heard that the Oiler scouts and management do not have a consensus #1 and most of us on here like to share our thoughts in the comments. Maybe they are doing the same thing?

    In April I received “insider info” via the son of an Oiler scout that the team was very high on Dumba and Murray. Other than through that source I haven’t heard Dumba’s name being mentioned as a potential Oiler pick….

    But I guess where there is smoke there is fire….