Yakupov wants to be an Oiler
Nail Railovich Yakupov answered the phone Sunday night in Nizhnekamsk, Tatarstan, Russia, and said it was true. That’s exactly what he told Russian hockey legend Igor Larionov — who also happens to be his agent.
When the bingo balls fell and the 29th-place Edmonton Oilers won last week’s NHL Draft Lottery to pick first in the draft for the third consecutive year, Yakupov said he was ecstatic.
“I definitely want to go to Edmonton and play for the Oilers, for sure,” said the 18-year-old that Central Scouting and every other scouting service and credible draft projector has rated No. 1 all year.
“I’ve played in Canada, in Sarnia, for the last two years. I love the people. I very much want to play for a Canadian team like Edmonton. I want to play for those guys!
“If they draft me, I will work very hard to make the team, give it everything I’ve got to work hard and play for the Oilers.
“I want to be No. 1. No. 1 is No. 1. I don’t want to be second or third.”
There. Just like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he said it. And that’s what Steve Tambellini wanted to hear.
The Oilers general manager said it the day after he won the lottery.
“Getting to know Yakupov is going to be big going forward,” said Tambellini. “When I talked to Taylor Hall, he was very comfortable talking about being the No. 1 pick. If you are the first overall pick, playing in a Canadian market, you have to have special qualities. You have to have maturity and confidence. You have to have courage, aside from all the talent.