In yesterday’s pre-lockout flurry, the Oilers assigned Nail Yakupov to Sarnia of the OHL. However, all signs suggest the young Russian is heading home.
There is no doubt Yakupov will be back when the lockout ends, but it does appear–based on reports and previous statements–that Sarnia and another season in junior are not in the cards.
This article contains the following quote:
- Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk general director Rafik Yakubov: “Yakupov will be playing in Nizhnekamsk in case of a lockout.”
Now this quote came weeks before the lockout and things change. However, as the article also states Yakupov tweeted “going to Russia” yesterday so unless he’s decided to spend time visiting there’s an excellent chance he’ll be playing in the KHL soon. Adding to the evidence:
Slava is the foreign correspondent for Sport-Express, Russia’s sports daily.
IS THIS GOOD OR BAD NEWS?
From a hockey development point of view, it’s a brilliant move. Yakupov is not eligible to play in the AHL, and the KHL is going to be very strong with all of the NHL Russians added to the current rosters. I don’t think there’s a good argument against the move.
WILL HE STAY THERE?
No. Nail Yakupov has signed an NHL contract and will honor it the moment he is allowed to; it’s important to remember this is a lock out and not a strike. NHL owners could have all of their players in camp next Friday should they choose.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Nail Yakupov’s KHL experience will be the best available to him. Fortunately, he’s famous enough to gain employment and not forced back into what would be a redundant junior season.
Yakupov in Russia? Wonderful!