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[Signing] Nail Yakupov to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)


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This happened a few days ago, and Nail has already played a game with Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, but I feel this gives us a medium to discuss the NHL's most recent first-overall draft choice. Nizhnekamsk is Yakupov's hometown, and he has decided to play for the team rather than return to the OHL's Sarnia Sting. This will certainly benefit him, as it seemed he had done all he could in the CHL. Hopefully, this will give him an opportunity to ease himself into the higher tiers of professional hockey and allow him to debut in the NHL much more capable of playing at an elite level than he would have this season.

There are also highlights of his debut below; scroll down to view.


Oilers will allow Nail Yakupov to play in Russia during NHL lockout

Jim Matheson, Postmedia News | Sep 18, 2012 9:17 PM ET | Last Updated: Sep 19, 2012 10:02 AM ET

EDMONTON — Home is where the heart is, not to mention the playground for Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov.

He’ll be playing for his high-flying hometown Russian team Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk on Saturday, according to his agent, Igor Larionov.

There was a feeling the Oilers might be blocking the 18-year-old from playing in the Kontinental Hockey League because they had assigned him to his old junior team, the Sarnia Sting, but that’s not true, according to team sources. That was simply a paper transaction because Yakupov has junior eligibility left.

If the first-overall pick in the June draft wants to play in Russia, that’s fine with them. This is what the kid wants, what Larionov wants after talking informally with the NHL club over the summer, and the Oilers weren’t about to play hardball and tell Yakupov he has to stay in North America.

According to sources, the Oilers would rather have Yakupov playing against men in the KHL — as long as he gets 15 to 20 minutes of ice time a game — than light it up in the Ontario Hockey League, where he’s already played for two years, against 16- and 17-year-olds.

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