The Edmonton Oilers have traded Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for prospect Zach Pochiro and a conditional pick in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. That conditional pick becomes a second round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft if Yakupov scores at least 15 goals this season.
Yakupov was the Oilers’ number one pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and was widely considered one of the key components of the youth movement in Edmonton, but things didn’t exactly pan out.
The 23-year-old forward spent 252 games with the club and scored 50 goals, adding 61 assists for a total of 111 points. Last season, he put up eight goals and 15 assists in 60 games.
“There was a lot of changes and there were a lot of coaches (in Edmonton),” Yakupov said. “There’s a lot of good players, and I can’t say nobody [didn’t try] their best. I don’t know what’s wrong with the organization and with the team, and I don’t know why they don’t make the playoffs for that many years. I tried everything I could. I played with heart. I went about my business and tried to help my team win games.”
Yakupov went on about his lack of success in Edmonton and didn’t seem to know why things didn’t pan out, especially given the effort involved.
“Maybe the coaches didn’t like me, or someone else, but honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.
Regardless of the potential reasons, Yakupov is hoping that he’ll benefit from a fresh start in St. Louis. And he’ll have a lot to work with, what with Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny among potential linemates.
According too reports, Tarasenko called Yakupov on Thursday to wish him a happy birthday. And now they’re teammates, so there could be some chemistry there to work with.
Yakupov does have significant upside. He has a terrific shot and can snipe from the wing, plus he has the wheels to get loose. Consistency issues dog him and he’s not the most defensively sound player, but St. Louis’ system might help patch up some of those weaknesses.