This week’s Q & A is ready.  We’re talking Perron, Yakupov and the development of young hockey players.

I have really liked watching David Perron. He is not that big of a guy but he always seems to initiate conflict.

Can the young Oilers learn from Perron? Should Hall, Nuge, Yak, JSchultz and Ebs start mixing it up and developing this same edge to their game to make some space out there for themselves?


I have really liked Perron’s game as well. He’s as annoying as they come and combines it with exceptional skill. I would love nothing more than to see a couple more guys in the top 9 (preferably a little bigger) that played with his edge.

With the guys you mentioned above, I just don’t see it in their make up as players and that’s fine because not everyone is that type of player.  It’s tough to expect them to do because playing with a little chip on your shoulder is either in you or it isn’t. There has to be something inside you as a person to be that type of guy.

The Oilers know that when building a team. It’s not like these guys once played more physical and then stopped. This is where management has to do more to diversify this group. No matter who you are its expected that you win puck battles and compete but some guys just aren’t cut out to run guys through the end of the rink or shove a glove in someone’s face.

Surrounding those guys with a couple of gritty guys that can play will create the space for them you are looking for.

I was wondering if you had ever thought of diving further back into what it was like when you were a kid.  A lot of us guys around your age are now having kids and as much I love hockey, I am starting to believe that the guys who do make it are the ones who excel no matter what (Skill), regardless of summer hockey etc.

I do think the extra training helps, but I am starting to doubt if this new breed is being over trained because of dads like me that love it so much.


Growing up I played many different sports. Hockey was always my favorite but I rarely played summer hockey. I was the last kid cut from the Brick team in novice (still stings) and the next two years I played for the Northern Alberta selects and Northern Alberta All-stars in Atom.

After that my dad and I decided that taking a breather in the summers was good. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t in my basement or on the street playing every chance I could but it was nice to have a break sometimes. I spent my summers playing baseball and was also big into Tae Kwon Do. I think developing other skills also helped with hockey.

I usually did one hockey school for a week in the summer to stay fresh and one before the season to get back into the swing of things. During the season I went to power skating every Monday.  I hated power skating because it wasn’t much fun.  It was VERY important to do but I did it just enough to help and not enough to burn me out or turn me off the game. If that was what hockey was I would have quit. Kids have to have fun and they have to love doing it.

To answer your question, times are changing and I think kids are obviously training more and spending more time on the ice because the thought is that’s the only way to make it.  There were kids back in my day training and skating every summer as well but I think when you get to 14 or 15 years old that’s more appropriate.  Kids should be kids. I didn’t even know what a trainer was until after my first year in the Western Hockey League.

Growing up I was always a pretty good player but I never felt like it affected me one bit by playing baseball or other sports in the summers. I played all forms of hockey every chance I could because I loved it and it was fun. Playing shinny versus friends or street hockey or roller hockey are all great tools and help develop a kids skills even if there isn’t some fancy coach saying do this or do that.

A lot of kids just have it.   I’m sure there are many kids you see today that don’t attend as many camps or skate 365 days a year and are just as good if not better than ones that do.  You will know if your child has that special something at a fairly early age.  Honing those abilities without turning them off the game is very important.  The cream will always rise to the top in my opinion if they love the game. 

I never did anything as a kid because I was trying to make it to the NHL.  Sure it was my dream and I pretended I was Mark Messier every day, but that wasn’t my focus.  As tough as it must be, parents can’t let that be their focus either.  

I have a 16 month old son and if faced with these decisions in the future, I will likely try to encourage my son to play multiple sports and that a break is good sometimes, but that’s just me.

What’s your deep down gut feel on Yakupov? Be Honest!


I see a player that is very young still. I didn’t get to watch him play last year so all I have to go on are his stats and I know he had a great finish to the shortened season.

Through 12 games, what I notice is that he has a great shot and that he’s an offensive player that needs power play time and players that are able to get him the puck.  He plays more of a perimeter game that relies on being opportunistic, with a great shot and being in the right place.

I don’t see a player (right now at least) that controls the play by lugging the puck up ice like Nuge or Hall. There have been flashes of big talent but not enough overall consistency offensively and defensively for me. With young players you can live with their defensive lapses at times because they need to learn how to play on the other side of the puck. The hope is that at least their shortcomings in the D-zone are offset by what’s happening in the O-zone.

In Junior you do whatever you want. The talent levels are so different that you can get by on just simply playing one way. I was a two-way guy and I remember just blowing the zone all the time or not back checking as hard as I should just because I could score more and it didn’t matter.

You can’t play that way at the NHL level; players are too good and will expose those deficiencies very quickly.  So far this season it’s easy to say his offensive play has not made up for his lack of defensive responsibility.  His game away from the puck is where I see Eakins pulling his hair out and it’s where I’ve been frustrated by his game.

Eventually, I think he will snap out of this offensive funk he’s in and get on a roll. He has proven he can score at this level but it’s a new year with pressure to build on last season and a new coach that he is trying to impress.  That can be very difficult for a kid that young and I think he’s struggling to find that balance of offensive confidence while being pressured to be more responsible.  Combine that with being on a losing team in a fragile atmosphere and its tough on anyone.

Bottom line is I haven’t been very impressed with his game this season but I do realize he’s still just a kid and it’s common for young players to have big ups and downs. Long term, it’s still too early to tell but a Pavel Datsyuk type player is out the window.

For my curiosity I’m going to throw this back on you guys and ask, was his defensive game this noticeably poor last year?


If you have a question for next week’s mailbag please send it to or on twitter @briansutherby. While you’re at it, come try out Streakcred, November starts today.

  • 24% body fat

    Once all top 6 forwards are back, and Yakupov is playing on the RW next to Gagner and either Perrorn or Hall, all 6 forwards will start to find more consistency in their game.

    And a third line of Jonesuu, Gordon and Hemsky should provide a good line for matching the tough competition.

  • Raider Jesse

    Regarding Yak’s defense last year.

    His defense wasn’t great, it was generally what you’d expect from an Oilers rookie not named RNH. He had similar problems of looking lost when the other team cycles in the offensive zone. However, generally speaking, he was better defensively overall last year. Less moments where he looked lost.

  • Retsinnab5

    The interesting thing if you read between the lines, Eberle might be the one to go to get what’s needed in return. (Not saying I like it)

    In all the articles and PR this fall through ON, Journal, Sun, etc, Hall & Nuge keep getting referenced along with Perron as ‘the guys’. Hemsky has far too long been untradeable and might stay longer term. Yak might have to stay and learn and ultimately fill a 1 – 2 RW slot with Hemsky given that other teams know his deficiencies.

    Might it be that next year’s #1 and Eberle, plus prospects might get the help that’s needed?

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      He is definitely not a GREAT hockey player at this point…….he has an above average chance of becoming a GREAT hockey player.

      I agree with Sutherby that he will never be a Pavel Datsyuk….and in my opinion…he is less than 50/50 on becoming a Pavel Bure….time will tell…

      Very skilled player…pretty tough too….let’s hope he matures quickly.

  • ReJ

    “Eventually, I think he will snap out of this offensive funk he’s in and get on a roll. He has proven he can score at this level but it’s a new year with pressure to build on last season and a new coach that he is trying to impress. That can be very difficult for a kid that young and I think he’s struggling to find that balance of offensive confidence while being pressured to be more responsible. Combine that with being on a losing team in a fragile atmosphere and its tough on anyone”

    That was extremely well said. It puts everything into context very well. He’s such firefly out there and all he’s looking to do is contribute offensively, and so far that has been his downfall. He wants it too bad, and hes forcing things because of it.

    His Defensive side of the game is lacking, and will for a few years, but he’ll get to a point hopfully where his +/- is on the positive side

  • ReJ

    Yaks defense last year was not great but the difference was he was putting the puck in the net. When that is happening you don’t focus as much on the defensive side of the puck. I do see him gliding around a lot more this year but that could be attributed to his offensive struggles right now. He has the ability on the defensive side as i have seen him make some great plays on the back check diving in and breaking up plays, he just needs to do it on a more regular basis. He is young consistency comes with experience and good coaching.

  • ReJ

    Last year Yakupov finished alot better than this year, he also drove the net alot more. Defensively he looked absolutely lost for the first 20 games or so last year but you could tell he was hustling hard defensively just wrong place wrong time. This year his level of compete seems to have gone down.

    Last year it also helped that the Oilers powerplay was clicking, Yakupov did very well on the PP.

    He also did have 4 empty netters (I think)..that helped inflate his stats a bit..

    Once he learns to get open better, or he finds more chemistry with his teammates I think he’ll start piling up the point totals.

  • vetinari

    Yak – he played better defensive hockey last year but I think that that was more the product of being a bit more fearful of making mistakes and not feeling like he had to carry the team.

    In terms of body language, he seems more aggressive but lost this year (especially when his team does not have the puck) and he seems to be trying too hard to be everywhere at once and ending up out of position when something finally happens.

  • meh, he’s super young, very talented but everyone seems to forget he went 26 games with only 1 goal, split by droughts of 9, and 16 games. I wouldn’t be banking his goal total on the late season rush when it didn’t matter.

  • His defence wasn’t good last year, he brought more offence plus he played quite a bit with Horc which helped on the defensive side. This year he just doesn’t seem to be competing as hard as last year. I think he lost a couple of mentors in Horc and Kruger, and He’s lost right now. He went #1 for a reason and I think he will get going soon.

  • The only question I have is, what will it take to get Kevin Lowe fired from his position? Will we have to go the same route as the Leaf fans and chant “Fire Lowe” from the stands? I’m sure most of us blame 6rings for the mess we are in, and the reputation the Oilers have in trying to attract players to this club. If you can provide an answer or any suggestions , it would be much appreciated.

  • Re: yaks defensive play last year.

    His positioning was horrible but his effort level overcame some of that as he was in perpetual motion… like a butterfly… moving fast but indifferent to the route taken. However he seemed to dart into the way a lot more often.

    To compound things this year, he still needs a map in his own end but he is stationary and thus his quick burst is way less effective as a first step from a stop always is.

    To use a baseball analogy with this crop of Oiler kids who are championed as so skilled, they leave the zone way too early and thus….. you can’t steal first base often comes to mind.

    my 2c.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Speaking of players in the top 6 that can play a more gritty/edgy game. I really feel Yakupov could be that guy. He has the build to lay out some hits. And i think he has a bit of an ornery side to him as well. I wouldn’t say he should be out there hitting everything per say.. But it seems to me the games where he’s playing well he is creating space for himself the way Perron does. I don’t see Yak doing that as much this year.