One of the best things about Nail Yakupov is the company he keeps. Yakupov’s agent is the brilliant hockey man Igor Larionov, who spent his career earning the reputation as the "thinking man’s hockey player"–his positioning was the stuff of legends. When Larionov speaks on any hockey subject it is worth a listen; when he’s discussing the Oilers #1 overall pick from 2012, it is best to listen closely.

Recently, several articles have cropped up about Larionov and his relationship with Yakupov. As a fan, I find this fascinating–what fan wouldn’t want a brilliant mentor like Larionov helping the youngster along. 

Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun has a fine read here and if features some excellent insight into the young Russian winger. Larionov reveals that the first choice for this winter (aside from the NHL) was for Nail to play with the kids in OKC–and what an addition he’d have been to the all-star cast featured with the Barons! The second choice was playing against men in the KHL, and the results have been impressive.

  • Larionov: “He’s got more goals than (Alexander) Ovechkin, more goals than (Pavel) Datsyuk, more goals than (Evgeni) Malkin, so that tells you that he’s right there. He’s playing not on the best team in the KHL, in his hometown, but he’s making a big difference helping his team win hockey games and keeping them in the playoff hunt.”

The underrated Joanne Ireland also has an article up on the subject and she focuses on the mentor role played by Larionov. She also gets to the heart of the matter in regard to Yakupov’s performance in the Subway Super Series (4, 2-2-4) and tells us what he expects to see in Edmonton.

  • Larionov: “When he steps on the ice (tonight), they’ll send one or two guys to shadow him and he’ll have to find a way to get away. When he plays in Edmonton, there will be five guys (who are dangerous) and you can’t shadow all five. It’s like playing the KLM line. It’s impossible."

I don’t want to oversell the influence that Igor Larionov is having, hell Nail Yakupov is a strong personality in his own right. Our own Andrey Osadchenko had a wonderful article up awhile back here at Oilers Nation that gave us insight into the player and his KHL season.

  • Yakupov: "Of course, it’s very different. I mean, this is the men’s league. They think differently but still got good speed. You can feel that. You can also feel some sort of a man’s strength, you know? You can feel it in every KHL player. This is really interesting to me. I like it. We have a great team. Everybody helped me around in the first couple of games so I wouldn’t feel lost. There was a lot of moral support. Then I scored my first goal and felt more comfortable. I got a hang of it. I started being initiative every now and then. I tried to help my team and we finally managed to win a game on home ice. It felt pretty good."


When you’re young, things can get a little hairy. Sometimes things come at you at such a fast pace that one can be overwhelmed. Nail Yakupov looks to me as though he can negotiate very well for his age, but having Larionov close at hand is a very positive thing. Add to that his enormous knowledge of hockey, the NHL, and the transition from junior to pro and this is a wonderful relationship for all involved, including the Oilers and their fans.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Watching the 1st 4 Subway super series games, I don’t know if it’s coaching or what but Yak looks like Ron Ellis, never more than 2 feet from the boards. He ventured into the middle once and got filled in. If he sails through the middle, head down, tonite, pray that Dumba isn’t on the ice.

  • RexLibris

    I had been wondering whether some of Yakupov’s positioning was based on the coaching staff as well. Something seemed different watching his play in the CHL series to what little I have seen from KHL clips.

    He is most dangerous in the high slot and the middle, yet so often he seems to get funneled over to the sideboards in these games.

    The coaches may be trying to use him as a sort of blinder, let the other team worry about him so much that they don’t see his teammates on other lines. That he is being so heavily shadowed and still managing noticeable production is another positive.

    • B S

      “yet so often he seems to get funneled over to the sideboards in these games.”

      Watch Canada/Russia games carefully, the Canadians have been using that trap against the Russian star players for at least 15 years now, especially on small ice.

      What’s concerned me about Yakupov’s play is his fancy looking giveaways. He’s still young, but it definitely looks like an area of work (think Omark, but without an attitude problem).

    • B S

      I agree with that 100%,I also like that he is very serious about the things he does,he is communicative but there is always a very serious undertone,this guy will be a franchise cornerstone in the near future and will have a tremendous impact on the Oilers.I can not begin to imagine the type of impact he will have when he works with Sam Gagner another player who has very serious undertones,I see something explosive there, 60 minute mentalitys on the same line.
      Igor larionov is a master of understatement,he simply lets results speak the obvious and then refers to that dynamic,I like the method,it is 100% results based.No spin-doctoring at all,just the facts Jack.You would expect a professional attitude from an incredibly talented ex-player and hockey mind of that caliber.

      I think Nail is doing great,I hope he is monitoring his diet and making sure he is getting the proper amount of rest at the right times,he is still growing and needs the basics,very good nutrition,lots of hard work and lots of rest and recovery time,these next two years are critical he needs to let himself fill out naturally,and simply providing these three things will help out.

      We will all get to see Nails work ethic and game alongside his Oiler peers in due time,it will be worth the wait.Nail is one of a number of potential superstars we have now,but as in any profession it is hard work and 60 min efforts that will force the cream to rise to the top,adjusting quickly and maintaining that work ethic will define who has a sucessful professional career ,and really these young men are building their careers here and we need to support them in this journey in every way possible.All we can ask for reasonably is hard work and constant learning so they get a chance to be the best hockey players they can possibly be.

      I think Ryan Smyth is the perfect role model in our Dressing room for young men,we have good vets,but Smyth is the epitome of Oilers hockey,and will teach all of these young men a lot about the game on and off-ice.Nail will have a lot of excellent influences and potential role models in Edmonton and I am sure he will choose the right ones to emulate.Ryan is the type of NHL pro who can teach young players how to keep a smile on their faces and still remain very serious and hardworking– great professional balance,great love of the game.

  • Professor Q

    Alan what else do you expect his agent to say . Will he be good . Dam right he will but can we afford him probably at the same $ 6 mil that the top 3 will get . $24 million on 4 players with a $60 million cap and thats without our top “D” Schultz & Petry probably at $ 4 mil each . Throw in a $4 mil goalie and we spend $ 36 million on 7 players . Probably says trades will happen .