Nail Yakupov was the focus of a lot of attention when he was looking completely lost and struggling mightily, so it only seems fair that he get some now that he’s playing the best hockey of his still brief career with the Edmonton Oilers.

Yakupov’s resurgence isn’t rocket science, as the old eye-ball test in recent weeks has told most of us. He’s playing with a better centre in Derek Roy and he’s more confident playing under coach Todd Nelson than he was under Dallas Eakins during some truly dark days. He talked to Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun here. The money quotes for me are below.

On Roy: “I feel amazing now. I was waiting for a centre for three years. It’s the first time I’ve had a really good centre and I’m really happy for it. It took us a couple of games to get used to each other and now we’re pretty comfortable. It’s easy to play with him. He can move the puck and he’s really smart. All I have to do is try to get open for a shot.”

On Nelson: “He’s helped me a lot. I think he’s the guy who helped me the most,” Yakupov said of Nelson. When you don’t have support, and when you’re not feeling any trust from the coach … it’s pretty tough to play the game on the bench,” he said.

“I’m not a bad player, but it’s hard to get your points when you play lower than 10 minutes like I did for one and a half years. Now I have support. It’s a different situation, different coach, different guys.

“Nelly trusts the guys, the lines stay the same. We skate with each other, practise with each other and it’s much easier to do the little things in the game because everyone knows where you have go. Things are a lot better than we had in the past.”



Trust. Confidence. Support. It’s impossible to put a number to that, especially since there’s a chicken-and-egg factor at work. What comes first, confidence or results? Are you confident because you’re getting results or are you getting results because you’re confident? Likely both.

Even with eight points (4-4-8) over his last 10 games and obvious chemistry he’s shown with Roy, Yakupov’s season totals of 9-12-21 aren’t anything to write home about. There’s still work to do away from the puck. He needs to continue to slow the game down at times, change pace more often.

That said, to my eyes Yakupov has played better on a consistent basis for longer stretches than at any other time in his career, including that ridiculous hot streak he had at the end of his rookie season. He’s in the right place at the right time more often. He is reading off Roy and vice-versa. He seems to be responding to being put into situations to succeed by Nelson.

Considering where he came from, Yakupov is in a reasonably good spot as he comes out of his entry level deal with the Oilers. Just months ago, there was much cause for reasonable doubt that would be the case. If Yakupov can put together another 18 games of what we’ve seen between now and the end of the season, the Oilers might have themselves a player.

Good for the kid. Good for the Oilers.


Undrafted Vladimir Tkachev, who caused a big stir during the pre-season and was signed by the Oilers to an entry level deal only to find out they’d have to toss him back into the 2015 draft pool, hasn’t exactly been tearing it up in the QMJHL this season.

Tkachev, 19, a diminutive (five-foot-eight) forward, has tallied 14-30-44 in 39 games with Moncton and the Quebec Remparts, who acquired him from the Wildcats after 13 games. Not bad numbers, but people were expecting more after he scored 10-20-30 as an 18-year-old with Moncton a year ago.

Might the Oilers re-visit Tkachev and use a mid-round pick to get him? 



  • With 18 games remaining and a record of 18-36-10 for 46 points after 64 games, the Oilers could establish franchise lows in wins, points and points-percentage for a full season of play.
  • The franchise low for wins is 25, a number recorded twice – in 2010-11, 25-45-12 under Tom Renney, and 1993-94, 25-45-14 (ties) under Ted Green and Glen Sather. The 1993-93 season was 84 games.
  • The franchise low for points is 60, set in the 1992-93 season when the Oilers had a record of 26-50-8 under Green. The low for points-percentage came in that season at .357. The Oilers face Chicago Friday with a percentage of .359.
  • The low for home wins in a full season is 13, set in 2010-11 under Renney. The Oilers have 10 wins at Rexall Place (10-20-2) with nine home dates remaining.



If you’re a road hockey demon or would just like to get out and welcome spring by stretching your legs for a good cause, the 2015 Edmonton Flatstick Hockey Tournament might be for you.

The tournament, in support of the Fort Edmonton Foundation, will be played March 13-14 at Sir Winston Churchill Square. Teams will play four-on-four. You can find all the information you need about entering a team or making a donation here.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Man, I think Yak is just a little too excited. I have to agree with him, and i’m sure many of you do, that this is the first time he has played with a good enter.

    Gagner? Come on! we all know how “good” Gagner was. WTF was Gagner going to teach Yak, and how was he going to mentor him? Gagner didn’t learn a GD thing in his time in Edmonton.

    His other center? Nuge. I love Nuge. He is my favorite player, but he doesn’t have enough experience to shelter a young jitterbug like Yak.

    Draisaittl? He has about as much experience as Yak.

    Gordon? A very good enter for the role he plays, but his role isn’t to find space and find the open shooter.

    Lander? Smyth?

    This IS the first tie he is playing consistently with a good center.

  • robc186

    Is it really a surprise that Yak is playing good when the coach isn’t using him as an example in the press box? Played great under Krueger, benched under Eakins, and playing good again under Nelson.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I say we take the best player available at the draft over tkachev. I felt bad for what happened to him. He looked so happy to sign that deal that couldnt be done.

    But…go for the best player. I dont expect us to do that though. I know how our management likes a good story over a good team.

  • ubermiguel

    Yakupov is terrible.

    A good GM would use any upswing in his play as an opportunity to quickly unload his ‘potential’ on another team in exchange for a missing piece…

    …Of course the Oilers have MacLowe at the helm, so that won’t happen.

    • YFC Prez

      Sure. Let’s trade his potential as soon as the kid shows signs he’s just may be a capable player.

      Worked so well with Dubnyk. I’m so glad we don’t have that bum on our roster.

    • Harry2

      That would be stupid. Yak has little value on the market right now. You would be lucky to get a couple of draft picks for him. However, he may be on the cusp of turning the corner and becoming a legit top 6 forward. The only sensible decision with Yak is to hold on to him and see what happens. If we trade him, I have no doubt he would score 50 in a couple of year just to spite us.

      Stupid is right, probably MacT’s next bold move to trade Yak for more magic beans.

  • Harry2

    How is it possible that after 5 years of rebuilding Edm is about to post their worst season in franchise history.

    Yet Lowe remains employed. Simply astonishing

  • Alsker

    Can’t wait to see Yak-M,Shlep-Yak-P together in training camp. Though the first two need/could use a season(give or take) in the AHL, they would definitely be the talk of the town. Nice that Yak has no fear of comments towards Nelson/Eakins, hel[ its obvious to all of us, just nice to hear a player be honest for a change. Alot of work still needed by Yak but he still slugging away at it and good on him.

  • Hemmercules

    Yak is built like Raffi Torres,and when he hits people,you can see in their reactions,that it hurt.he is a tank,and if he gets a nasty streak,the rest of his game will come along nicely.could be a mix of David Perron and OV,which sounds aight to me.there’s a huge middle ground there,and if he lands anywhere in the middle of it,I think we’ll have a pretty special player.