Where does Yak fit?

Nail Yakupov is the wild card the Oilers have up their sleeve. The problem is they don’t really know what kind of a wild card he is. He could be a strong offensive force and be a legit NHL scoring weapon. He could also be a streaky player with defensive lapses like we saw last season. 

If Yak can have a big jump statistically this season, and not be indifferent defensively, I would be very impressed. Last season, he totalled twenty four points in sixty three games. He could have a nice increase this year. Asking Hall to improve on being a point per game is a lot. Both Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins could also see their point totals increase, but percentage wise it won’t be huge. Pouliot has been great throughout camp and is an upgrade on the wing, and I’m thinking that somewhere around forty points would be good. I also think that Teddy Purcell should match or beat Hemsky’s Oilers totals from last season. That leaves us with Yak as the guy who can have a big effect on the team’s scoring.

He is capable of more production, and having more awareness for a two way game. It takes effort to help out on the back check, and understanding where to be defensively. If he can improve, which Eakins thinks he has, his ice time will go up as will the quality of that ice time. The real question is: who does he play with?

FINDING CHEMISTRY

Chemistry

At this point, there is no chemistry between Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. The coaching staff has tried to create some, but I don’t see it when they play together. Yakupov seems like he is looking at the other two trying to figure how and where he fits in. The Oilers do not have the luxury of coming out of the gate slow this year. They need to rack up two points as often as possible. They need their top line going, but the top line should include Eberle. Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins really push the pace, and will be a big part of the team’s success this season. 

As far as I see, Leon Draisaitl has earned the right to start the season with the Oilers. I’m still not sold on him being here for the entire year, though. Young players should have to earn their spot, rather than be slotted in and hoping that it works out. It’s hard to be a second line centre in the NHL. The Oilers will be asking a lot from Draisaitl if he stays with the big club all season. However, a duo of Draisaitl and Yak could look good in the future.

Their skill sets compliment each other. There could be some real chemistry between them and success to follow, but this season is not the time for that. That duo, most likely paired with Perron or Pouliot, will have some very rough patches as they learn how to play in the NHL.  Draisaitl cannot be asked to hold up a line defensively. Opposing teams will target this duo on the road and will have success against them. If you are prepared to live with some tough nights, then put them together. It’s too early for my appetite. 

Boyd Gordon does what you expect from his type of player. I loved the signing when it was announced. Gordon is not a hugely offensive player, so he and Yakupov are not really an option. They think and play the game totally different. Having these two together would hamper the others ability to execute their roles. Gordon and Yakupov should not become a duo.

WHO IS LEFT?

Left

That leaves Yakimov, Lander and Arcobello as options to centre Yakupov. Yakimov has been impressive during training camp. He is a big body with a nice skill set. He has also been one of the better centres, but he should not play eight minutes per night in the NHL when he can play eighteen in OKC. He will get PP and PK time there. The best thing for him is to play a bunch in the AHL. Why rush it? Two rookie centres in the Western Conference would be very difficult to manage. 

Lander is a good team mate, defensive player and pro. I don’t know if he will ever be able to bring the AHL offence to the NHL. At this point he is not a suitable line mate for Yak. 
That leaves Arcobello. Almost by default, Arcobello is my choice to be Yak’s centre. They both like to play the same type of hockey. Arcobello wants to have an NHL career. What a great opportunity for him to play with Yak. He will bend over backwards to try and get him going offensively. They will need a big winger to get the puck, probably Pouliot. I would like to see these three play together Saturday and play a lot of minutes regardless of the outcome.
What line would that be? Probably your third line but really it would be a tie with the fourth line for ice time many nights, especially on the road.  Yakupov is this season’s wildcard. An improved year from him will get the team closer to the playoffs, but who will be his centre? Stay tuned.
    • bwar

      I think that Draisaitl -Yak is a long term fit. Eakins probably has to many concerns about their defensive game to do it now.

      Yak/Nuge and Hall don’t seem to fit so how about Yak with Nuge and Perron and give Draisaitl Hall and Eberle. That’s your top 6 so why not give those combos a try?

  • ghostcoins

    so much upside. im stoked to see what he can do. i hope everyone takes a step back (media and fans) and give him some breathing room. dude could shine for us if we let him.

  • mithaman

    For god sakes Yak…Show some promise. Your training camp has not gone so well and you’ve been playing against low end prospects.

    PLEASE prove us wrong and be a late bloomer like Lecavalier or Thornton. Right now you are looking more like Daigle or Stephan…

  • ghostcoins

    Jesus H. Fernandez!

    No more articles about Yak. All of these articles are inviting the haters to come out and enlighten us with their patience and insight. Scrutiny hasn’t exactly been effective with him. He’s still finding his game. Just because someone was a #1 overall, it doesn’t mean they’re Crosby or Ovechkin… his draft year was pretty weak. Patience and lowered expectations will reward us with an effective sniper.

  • bwar

    I’d really like to see Yakimov, Arcobello, Lander and Khaira all in the lineup for the final preseason game. Yakimov deserves at least one game with real NHL wingers to determine whether he starts the year in the NHL or the AHL. Arcobello also needs to show that he is going to be capable offensively. Pair Yakimov and Arcobello with top9 NHL wingers and let them go head to head for the 3C roster spot. I think the Oilers should at least have a quick peak at the double Yak combo. Maybe the big russian is exactly what the little russian needs.

    Lander has been largely absent from training camp/preseason. I still feel he deserves one last look before getting cut. At this point he’s battling for a 4W or a pressbox spot on the roster.

    Khaira on the otherhand has impressed during camp. While I don’t see many scenarios where Khaira makes the club, I think one final preseason game helps management see what the future holds for Khaira and a good showing could place him at the top of the list as a 4C call up.

    • ghostcoins

      What has Lander done to justify the extra chance? To me, the guy is an AHL stud that just can’t make the jump to the NHL. He’s invisible and offensively impotent. Reminds me of Eric Belanger, but without the 20 goal seasons.

  • Prongers Promises

    Forget about YAK!!! When is Draisaitl going to score a goal??? Enough is enough. He’s played what, 3 pre season games and has nothing to show for it but some old sock tape??

    This is unacceptable for a 3rd overall pick. He needs to start giving it his all.

  • Prongers Promises

    So after watching Yak play 6-8 minutes together with Hall and Nuge, we all know enough to give up completely on the experiment?

    Is this how quickly we give up on things?

    • ghostcoins

      I say put him on his proper wing and keep him with the same linemates for a game.

      Eakins has done little for Yakupov. However I believe once the season gets going he will build confidence if he is allowed to play through some rough patches. I am not worried about Nail.

      Draisaitl been good, better then I thought. He should have he have a couple points, so what if he doesn’t. He looks like he belongs. Get him a couple steady linemates he will be fine.

  • Spoils

    Sign Babcock this offseason… Trade Petry and a 4th for anisimov or lander, musil and a 3rd for anisimov or purcell at 20% retained for anisimov…

    Hall_nuge_e bs (scoring)

    Pouliot_anisimov_yakupov

    Perron_drai_purcell/pitlick

    Hendricks_gords_gazdic/pitlick

    Nikitin_schultz

    Marincin_petry(klefbom)

    Ference/fayne

  • Prongers Promises

    Why is no one talking about Eberle’s lack luster pre season performance thus far? At least Yak’s had chances and look dangerous. Eberle has done nothing in my mind to earn that top spot so far.

    But, even if Yak is bumped down to the Arco line, that’s still an upgrade on the fourth line we we’re rolling last year.

  • For me,the most important thing for Yak is to learn how to play better defensively,or he will be a bust.That is why I would play him with Gordon and Hendrick’s,let him learn from two pro’s,where he doesn’t have to produce any offence,he can do that on the power play.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I feel that the lack of a strong center for the second line could really bite us in the long term as Yak could end up looking like a wash-out only to score 50 goals for another team after we sell him for a bag of stale peanuts. No matter the outcome this year we must be patient with Yak.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I totally agree with the top line of Hall, RNH and Eberle.

    Eakins only put them together last year after the season was lost. So I say start with them as first line and sort out line 2 and 3 as things go along. Way too much time is focused on the 2nd and 3rd line.

    As Hall, RNH and Ebs go so, go the Oilers. I am not in favor of strengthening the 2nd line by moving Eberle off the first line thereby weakening the 1st line.

  • bwar

    I love Yakupov. But he is not an Oiler. The sooner he’s somewhere else, the better for everybody. He is a Red Wing, a Ranger, a Star, a Panther, a Capital…

    The fishbowl that is Edmonton is exactly wrong for him.

    I really hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I am.

    • Anton CP

      I don’t think that you are wrong about that, I was hoping Oilers won’t get the No.1 pick at 2012 because I figured Yak would be the odd man out since Oilers were not thin on wings especially right side. At draft I was hoping Oilers would not draft Yak but they did in the end. Yak was not a right fit for Oilers and Eakins made sure of that last season.

  • Dan 1919

    Luckily the preseason has the potential to indicate very little, hopefully this applies to both Yak and Eberle.

    We all know the Yak story, and are all crossing our fingers things turn around.

    Ebs is a great player that can score 28 goals, but these last couple years he’s really turned into purely a fancy player. He doesn’t drive the net like he did in his first year and he doesn’t bring a lot of energy. We’ll know for the most part what kind of player Ebs will be his whole career by this year’s trade deadline.

    If this season is another tanker, it’s time to refurbish the rebuild. Ebs and his 28 goals has the best value, he should be the first to be moved while his value is still relatively high for an actual CORE player (center or Dman). If nothing changes in his game, in a few years he will be one of those guys that everyone would be happy to have, but not willing to give up anything of value for (Hemsky, Neil).

      • Dan 1919

        I’m saying he’s a great player that plenty of teams would love to have, unfortunately building a contending NHL team isn’t as easy as slapping a few 28 goal scores together and calling it a day.

        If this group isn’t going to pan out they’ll have to improve the entire structure. This will be a big year as far as seeing if this group can be successful going forward. I’m not saying they have to make the playoffs but we do have to see if these “core” players can carry the play and be effective night over night like Hall has proved.

  • Britts94

    Every game i watch I noticed that yaks linemates don’t really wanna pass the puck to him. Pass him the puck and we don’t need to be talking about this.

  • Britts94

    My oh my Strudwick, I dont even know where to start.

    1. You state that Yak has no chemistry with RNH and Hall yet Eakins pulled them apart after 1 period. How.the hell.do you judge chemistry after 20mins?

    2. You state that youre not sold on LD being on the team all year but who is a better option? Lander? *Puke

    3. You dont know if Lander can bring it. The guy had ONE assist playing in the top.6 for 20+ games. That is a mssive red flag.

    4. Youre out to lunch. Be better please

  • Yakupov is the long term fit.

    If Draisaitl has earned the right to be here, then he’s here to stay, you can’t send him anywhere but to the press box after 9 games, if he’s good enough to be a 2nd line center then he’s good enough to have Yakupov as a line mate. Full Stop.

    Eakins mentioned as much in his post-game presser, at some point these kids ( Yakupov & Draisaitl) have to play together, they are part of the future going forward.

    After one pre-season game you cannot claim Yakupov has no chemistry with Hall or RNH?

    No, RNH and Eberle don’t push the pace; both players have a dramatic fall off when not paired with Hall, so they don’t push the pace, Hall does….. Look up the numbers yourself.

    Am I the only one who really doesn’t cares that Arcobello want’s an NHL career?

    So far he’s been completely outplayed by Yakimov during the pre-season, I don’t see why he’s been gifted a spot by so many people claiming the Oilers can’t have two rookie centers?

    Yet, Arcobello has 41 sporadic games in the NHL, hardly a convincing argument when Arcobello is still a NHL rookie himself & getting soundly beat in training camp by Yakimov.

    Do you think the way Purcell has played is any better the Yakupov’s play?

    Purcell has been a bloody ghost this pre-season & the way he’s played, I’ll put money that Purcell doesn’t beat Hemsky’s 43 points of last year.

    Looking forward, do you feel in the next year that the Oilers can sign both Perron & Purcell?

    This should be the Oilers last year out of the playoffs, it’s still a great opportunity for Yakupov and the Oilers to find his game and keep learning the NHL game, sooner or a later the game’s going to slow down for this kid and when it does the Oilers are going to be paid back in full with their patients.

    • Serious Gord

      Well done.

      I will refrain from assuming that this is the last season that the oil finish outside of the playoffs as that was what the large majority of oil fans said about last season.

      A disastrous season this year could put the oil in a hole that keeps them out of the playoffs next year as well.

      Your comments re Purcell and Arco are interesting. I haven’t been able to watch much of the preseason games and judging by how listless the WPG/cgy game I attended was, I don’t know how much faith I would put in them particularly in regard to players who are guaranteed a spot on the starting roster (giordano was just gliding around, for example). If Purcell is a bust that puts a real hole in the oils depth chart.

      • Dan 1919

        I agree, I’m waiting for the season to start before I gauge the underperforming veterans like Purcell or Eberle. It does show something about their character, for example I doubt you’d ever see pure energy guys like Hall or Iginla floating any game at anytime, but that still doesn’t mean Eberle, Purcell (maybe even Yak) or the other guys that do float are going to have bust seasons.

    • Dan 1919

      Excellent post.Very insightfull.

      I agree with most points , including your assesments of the new talent, some people are in for surprises when players come to the Oilers bolstered by stats and minutes earned on less skilled rosters and are underwhelming when immersed in the Oilers talent pool,you really need to be a talented Player to come to Edmonton and create a noticable impact above those aleady in place.The Oilers have not lacked skill for 4 yeas now, they have lacked a proper System and Coaches to run it.

      I am holding my breath till the 1st ten games are done, to me the only question is if the Coaches can implement and manage a System which will optimise the assets they have ,that is all,can they make this Bird Fly? I dont care what colors the feathers are as long as this sucker can catch some air and get off the ground.

      I believe Nuges defensive work and Ebbs commitment to supporting Hall have more value as drivers in any assesment of Halls productivity than Taylors individual Skillset does.None of the core are Plug-and Play quite yet,a few are close.

      I will support that this season Hall will show us another side of himself,he will hit his comfort zone and he will focus on being a pure scoring winger instead of being a hybrid-center,he will surrender possesion thru the n-zone to Nuge and will then take the next step as a Superstar by showing the NHL that he can be positionlly and defensively sound ,that he does not need to push the River by possesing the puck for 200ft,that he can earn space and be a reciever as much as being a Quarterback.Hall will always be the man you WANT to have the puck,now it is up to him to make it so we want someone else to have the puck so they can give it to him to bury.We know Hall excites everyone lugging the puck,but he can also excite us by burying it 2-3 times a game by finishing passes off as well
      .When Hall gets over-heated and involved and NEEDS to run with the bone then double shift him and let him ea,t up some 2nd line possesion time doing so till he calms down,hopefully we can see him take the next step with his 1st line icetime and become a Pure Scoring Winger by trusting Nuge to keep him fed well with pucks.

  • Serious Gord

    I’ve always been an ardent supporter of Yakupov. I believe he has needed patience and guidance to get him through his transition to playing in the NHL.

    It’s getting harder and harder to see any hope with this player. I was thinking coming into this year he HAS to feel the need to come into camp and play strong. Show some of his skill. I’m over it. Where is this skill? He’s skittering all over the place like he’s had 10 cups of coffee too many. Doesn’t mesh with any of his line mates. Does he have a snapshot?! Seriously have not seen one glimmer of hope by watching this player. In my mind this was a major swing and a miss. Yah I know he was the consensus #1 overall. Anybody think he would even be a 1st round pick anymore? I don’t know who gets the fail here Yak or the Oilers but it looks like a giant fail.

  • Serious Gord

    Eakins has gone out of his way to praise Yak1 in the preseason. He has mentioned at least a couple of times that Yak1 is much more responsible inside the D zone. I wonder if Eakins may have tried tough love last year and got nowhere and is trying something different this year.