Does Nail Yakupov need to play right wing?

64-Yakupov-6

Last night in Winnipeg, Nail Yakupov was put on the left wing of Edmonton’s first line, playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. The line didn’t play very well; Yakupov was terrible.

Early in the second period, Dallas Eakins bumped Yakupov down to the second line and back to right wing. Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle took off, and Yakupov was much improved.

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Shift by Shift

FIAT_500L_gear_shift

Looking through my shift-by-shift notes for Yakupov, it isn’t hard to identify the reason (beyond general ineffectiveness) that Eakins bumped him back to the starboard side of the ice:

  • Shift 1: Scrambling around the net, looking for an opportunity; he was all set for a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pass but the centre shot instead… kept shifting over to right wing
  • Shift 2: shifted over to right wing again… got over to provide an outlet option on the left…
  • Shift 3: shifting over to right wing again
  • Shift 4: was offscreen, came back to the own end, failed on an awkward-looking clear… good entry, drop pass to Nugent-Hopkins that the centre couldn’t handle…
  • Shift 5: took the defenceman’s spot off the neutral zone draw… he’s moved to right wing again… in position for a RNH pass but again RNH shoots…
  • Shift 6: he’s on RW again… quick forecheck didn’t do much; drew a minus after a successful Jets stretch pass…
  • Shift 7: guess who is on RW… rounded the net and was following the play; gave a Jets skater a hard shove from behind…
  • Shift 8: did a fly-by of the puck (on RW) at the centre ice line, didn’t get possession as the Jets started the other way…
  • Shift 9 (Second period): shifts over to RW, again… finishes a check in the OZ…
  • Shift 10: had a winger win on a defensive zone draw but threw the puck in a corner where a Jet grabbed it… provided an outlet and made a good cross-ice pass… did a bad job on the forecheck, failing to initiate contact and picking the wrong side of the Jets’ D, allowing an easy outlet pass…
  • Moved to right wing of the second line
  • Shift 11: grabbed the puck on the DZ boards but passed it into Pouliot’s skates, resulting in a turnover…
  • Shift 12: made himself an outlet option , makes an entry with possession… second zone entry in a row, split the D but couldn’t shoot, passed back…
  • Shift 13 …
  • Shift 14: nice job following Pouliot, kept the puck in the offensive zone… almost lost Scheifele in the defensive zone but shoved him off the puck at the last moment…
  • Shift 15: (Third period) helped a bit to draw Draisaitl’s holding penalty by slowing up Morrissey… PP dump-in that led to an Oilers’ possession but nothing else…
  • Shift 16: helped win an offensive zone PP draw… hard shot went just wide…
  • Shift 17: stole the puck from Adam Pardy at the offensive blue line, passed it off and then went to the net…
  • Shift 18: entered the zone on the RW and cut in toward the slot, fired a dangerous shot despite being totally surrounded… good outlet pass to Pouliot…
  • Shift 19: cycled behind the net after taking the puck off the faceoff…
  • Shift 20: dangerous pass to Jordan Eberle on the PP, which keyed Winnipeg the other way…
  • Shift 21: another offensive blue line steal but he couldn’t control the puck… stole it again as the Jets tried to break out…
  • Shift 22: wandering around the defensive zone seemingly at random… couldn’t take the puck with him on a flyby and the Jets got a glorious chance a moment later…
  • Shift 23: almost stole the puck in the defensive zone in the last minute with the Jets’ goalie pulled…

The Short Version & Repercussions

Dallas Eakins 6

Yakupov kept transitioning back to right wing through his first 10 shifts, he was wholly ineffective in the role and he brought his linemates down with him. He wasn’t particularly fantastic on right wing, but he was worlds better, harrying the Jets at the offensive blue line and (despite some bad defensive zone moments) largely keeping himself in the position he belonged.

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Like most coaches, Eakins would doubtless prefer if his left-handed shots by-and-large played left wing coming out of the defensive zone. But if Wednesday night was any indication, it’s going to be a process to break Yakupov into the role; besides that there isn’t a winger on a team likely to have fewer defensive responsibilities so putting him on the offside might not be as critical as putting someone else there. After the contest, Eakins told assembled reporters that he was leaning towards just leaving Yakupov on the right side.

If Yakupov plays right wing, it would mess up Edmonton’s expected line combinations a little bit; the team would need to find somewhere else for Teddy Purcell (likely on the second line) and either Benoit Pouliot or David Perron would be shifted down. Perron isn’t a terrible candidate, both because he and Yakupov played together last year and also because he’d doubtless be double-shifted on the right wing of the Boyd Gordon line if he were to be pushed down the lineup.

But it seems to be what’s best for the player, and in this case what’s best for the player is also probably best for the team. 


  • RCN

    Prediction:

    Purcell plays with Gordon & Hendricks, and Yakupov plays RW with Arcobello & Gazdic/Joensuu. Rage ensues. Beautiful.

    Hall-Nuge-Eberle

    Pouliot-Draisaitl-Perron

    Hendricks-Gordon-Purcell

    Joensuu/Gazdic (HALL)-Arcobello-Yakupov

  • Jaxon

    I really don’t understand the obsession with Eberle as the team’s best RW. He is not an elite player, yet the Oilers seem to think he’s one to base the team around. He is a bad teammate (ask Gagner and former Regina Pat teammates), selfish, and cares only about his points (he still brags in the locker room about being the leading WJC scorer).

    The guy is a born loser. His career record, from WHL and NHL (not including his two short stints in the AHL) is 242-275-65. Take out his the Regina Records in his 16 & 17 year old seasons – where he was not in a leadership role – the record is 162-225-51.

    I would take a guess that a lot of Yakupov’s, and other young guys, struggles are due to Eberle constantly putting them down, highlighting their struggles, and making them feel uncomfortable. The team drafted a RW, his position, #1 and instead of including him on the team and making him feel comfortable, he helps isolate him more. Some assistant captain.

    Get rid of the guy. I almost blew my load last year when the Eberle-for-Simmonds trade rumours were blowing. That would be a steal. Addition by losing Eberle, and gaining a better player (and teammate).

    • Do what Weight did?

      I’ve never heard of Gagner or anyone else saying anything like that about Ebs. I’ve also never heard of him bragging about the WJC in the locker room. I’m sure if he did, someone would shut him up pretty quick. You know, something along the lines of “that’s great Jordan, but we’re playing against men now”. (Maybe a little more obscenity in here too)

      I don’t know if Ebs is a good teammate or not, but how on earth can you know so much and be so sure that he’s such a tool? Help me find some articles where Gags is quoted or some former Pats talk about him. Otherwise, it’s just speculation.

    • Grant

      Guess you never watched him in the world junior tournaments??
      One of the better wingers in the league and he is gonna get better.
      Try watching a few games this year.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Ahhhhh…. My goat in fine form again last night. Yak is the epitome of one-dimensional, and he’s pretty bad at that one dimension to boot.

    He has to learn how to play hockey, not just skate up the side of the wing, look for a pass, if it doesn’t come, look lost.

  • IM80

    Was Nail’s continue progression to the wrong wing defiance or just being lost? I don’t get Nail, he was given perferable linemates and from the outset he just needed to let the game come to him. Nuge and Eberle are give and go players. Just seems Nail is turning into a soloist at times, trying to take on to many guys, playing outta position to frequently.

    Had this been a regular season game he would of hardly seen the ice in the third.

    Something is lost in translation with Nail and Eakins.

  • oilerjed

    In those two AHL years stints, the team had losing records while he was there.

    It’s worth noting that as soon as the NHLers left OKC in the lockout year, the team dramatically improved. Is anyone else willing to consider that the group the Oilers “core” is a bunch of selfish guys who only cares about the points race, not the playoff race?

  • Cain

    Why does Eakins keep messing with this kid? Let him play where he’s always played, get some confidence and achieve some success!

    Let him play where he’s comfortable and help him learn defensive hockey and how to play pro hockey, not turn him into a goalie because that’s what the team lacks.

    You drafted him number one overall for a reason. He has uncommon skill and shooting ability. If you don’t believe that, then why did you draft him in the first place? Draft for position if that’s what you want to do.

    Why do you keep trying to turn Yakupov into something he’s not, instead of helping him grow into something he can be? His one-timer was all we heard about in his draft year and now you want to take that away from him?

    The line-up requires some shuffling for positional purposes, fine. You have a team with a roster full of lesser-skilled, ham-and-eggers who can be moved around, and nobody will notice a difference in their production.Players that won’t be here in two years. Players who weren’t drafted number one. Players that will never have the upside that Yakupov has.

    • Zarny

      Sorry but moving a player to their natural W is not messing with them. It’s done on a routine basis by the best coaches in the game.

      Trying to turn Yakuopv into something he’s not? You mean like a complete hockey player with a 200 ft game?

      That is exactly what the Oilers have been trying to do. They sheltered Yak from tough competition last year. His offensive zone starts were through the roof. He’s been coddled as much as you can be in the NHL. The problem is Yakupov not the Oilers.

      Toews, Crosby etc are not complete hockey players because of coaching. They are complete hockey players because they’ve made conscious decisions to change their game to suit the NHL. Crosby and all the best players in the game repeatedly mention the adjustments they have to make to succeed.

      There is none of that from Yakupov yet. He still plays the same game he did in Jr. That will never succeed in the NHL. He is skilled to be sure; but he is not more skilled than everyone else. He does not have elite top-end speed. He has a good one-timer but it is not on par with Ovechkin.

      You draft a player #1 overall with the belief they can develop into a great NHL player. Not that they can be a great Junior player in the NHL. That will never work. To think Yakupov can be the same player and play the same way as Jr and have success in the NHL is foolish. As is thinking they should just let Yakupov do what he wants and not burden him with becoming a better overall player.

  • oilbaron

    If you want a LW, then go out and trade him for one. Trade him and our 1st and maybe a prospect to the Jets for Evander Kane. Oh whatever it takes to get Kane that doesnt include #4,14,93,55 or 19. Our first two forward line LW consisting of Hall and Kane sounds pretty deadly boy!