Edmonton Oilers: Can Nail Yakupov Live Up to the Hype During a Shortened Season?
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For the third year in a row the Edmonton Oilers secured the first overall pick at the in the NHL Entry Draft and for the third year in a row they drafted a talented forward.
Like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before him, Nail Yakupov was a heralded offensive talent coming out of the CHL, and the Oilers opted to take the best player available instead of filling an organizational need.
However, unlike Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov isn't afforded the luxury of a complete NHL training camp where he can become acclimated to the NHL game and his new team.
Thanks to the lockout, the abbreviated, week-long training camp is hardly enough time to develop any sort of on-ice chemistry with teammates, and it is yet to be seen if the talented Russian sniper has bought in to head coach Ralph Krueger's philosophy.
There will be a ton of pressure on Yakupov to succeed this season, considering the Oilers drafted him instead of a much needed defenseman, but the situation in Edmonton will be unlike any Yakupov has experienced to date.
With names like Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle above him on the depth chart, Yakupov is no longer the 'go-to guy' on the team, and will not be relied upon to be the primary scoring threat.
It has been quite evident that Yakupov thrives in this role, as the talented winger certainly doesn't lack any confidence and bravado, both on the ice and when dealing with the media. But how will he perform with a little less spotlight?
This could play to Yakupov's advantage, allowing the rookie to fly under the radar (as much as that is possible being a former number one pick) and establish his game and his role on the young Oilers team.
Will Nail Yakupov live up to the hype?
Though Yakupov had a fairly mediocre tournament during the World Junior Championships, he was quite successful during his time in the KHL.
Though the two leagues aren't the same, Yakupov's success in the KHL should bode well for his performance in the NHL, and the time playing against men during the lockout will surely prove to be invaluable.
A shortened NHL season means that Yakupov won't have time to ease his way into the NHL game, so any type of learning curve will have to be steep in order for the young Russian to satisfy would-be detractors.
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