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Yakupov only stands to gain from lessons; Oilers' No. 1 pick negotiates learning curve
15 ноября 2013 года. National Post. MacKinnon, John

Some fans and hockey people have been startled an Edmonton Oilers No. 1 draft pick has spoken out of turn about his ice time and his relationship with his coach. I'm amazed the club's posse of No. 1 picks and top prospects has been so well be haved up to now.

It is not as if the likes of Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent- Hopkins and, now, the talkative Nail Yakupov joined a veteran team and were going to be brought along slowly.

No, the kids basically were instant starters in the league. It is true that they have been "protected," their defensive zone starts limited, their minutes rationed, their professional apprenticeships focused on learning the "200-foot game." Some, like Eberle, Nugent- Hopkins, Hall and defenceman Justin Schultz had some seasoning in the minors, but that was owing to the lockout that shut down the first half of the 2012-13 season.

The learning process is ongoing, and not just for Yakupov. Yes, he has spent time among the bottom-six forwards, been famously benched, and had his time on the ice curtailed sharply in the last couple of games.

To various degrees, the others have faced similar treatment as they climb a bumpy learning curve.

Still, on a team that coughs up the puck as much as the Oilers do (Edmonton has yielded an NHL-high 78 goals in 20 games), it is not terribly hard to imagine the 20-year-old Yakupov's confusion. Who, me? What about those guys?

It is also not hard to imagine head coach Dallas Eakins' dismay watching Yakupov give the puck away in his own end and thinking it might be useful for the young talent to observe things from the bench for a while.

And it is not hard to notice Yakupov's minus-14, last in the whole NHL. It's not as if he has offset his defensive shortcomings with scoring. Yakupov has two goals and four points this season.

The day after the Yakupov kerfuffle of the day before, Oilers captain Andrew Ference provided context.

"The coach referred to it, things are earned here," Ference said. "It's not a system of just giving [ice time] because somebody's asking for it."

You do need to support your struggling teammate, Ference said. He spent time with Yakupov earlier this week and thinks highly of him.

"He's a good kid, he really is," Ference said. "He's here for the right reasons, he works extremely hard, he's got a great head on his shoulders as far as being committed to being a professional. He's not partying and living a big lifestyle. He's a solid individual."

Ference said the situation with Yakupov is not parallel to that of Tyler Seguin, when he was with the Boston Bruins. Seguin, the No. 2 pick behind Hall in the 2010 draft,joined a veteran Cup-contending team. He sat some and played limited minutes behind David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.

"His [situation] was more the norm, Tyler, sitting some games, learning the defensive game," Ference said. "Boston had the luxury of having a very deep veteran lineup where you could sit one of your most offensively gifted players and not hurt your team's chances of winning."

The Bruins lost patience with Seguin, deemed too soft a player in blue-collar Boston, too fond of living the life. Seguin has found his way in Dallas, seemingly. He has 17 points in 19 games, including his eighth goal - against Edmonton - on Wednesday night.

The Oilers may be deep in callow, talented youth. But there are those who want to support Yakupov, according to Ference, not rip him for speaking out.

"He is important to us; as a team, we need him," Ference said. "But, at the end of the day, we all have our responsibilities to perform at a very good level.

"That's the same from our fourth-line guys to our first-line guys. The expectations have to be the same throughout. There's not two sets of rules."

Eakins said the various measures the club uses are meant to be educational, not punitive. They are selective, he said, only in that they are applied where needed.

"If you want to rank [our players] with time spent with coaches, Nail's right up at the top," Eakins said. "Listen, this guy's had the great gift of sitting with [assistant coach] Keith Acton and going through the shifts.

"That's not a burden, that's a gift. When a guy like Keith Acton, with his knowledge, can sit with you and take you through your shifts on a consistent basis, that's a great gift."

Based on comments from Yakupov and his agent, Igor Larionov, it seems the young player has not yet recognized the thought sometimes counts as much as the gift.

Eakins noted that veteran winger Ryan Smyth takes time to talk to Yakupov, especially on the bench during games. Eakins is playing Yakupov with centre Mark Arcobello, who, the coach says, makes his linemates better.

Those circumstances, too, are gifts. If Yakupov is the fine young man Ference believes him to be, he will appreciate his gifts, and perhaps soon. Christmas is coming, after all.

Страничка Наилья Якупова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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