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Yakupov signs entry-level deal with Oilers

Monday, 07.23.2012 / 11:02 AM / News

NHL.com

Nail Yakupov, the first player chosen in last month's NHL Draft, has signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. No financial terms were disclosed.

"We're very happy to sign Nail to a three-year contract," Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini told the team's website Monday. "He's an extremely talented and passionate young man who we feel will be an integral part of our team for many years to come."

Yakupov became the first Russian-born player selected No. 1 at the NHL Draft since Alex Ovechkin went to the Washington Capitals in 2004 when Tambellini announced him as the team's top choice at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22.

"Edmonton is a great city and crazy town for hockey … it's a hockey town and I play hockey and I just want to play my best hockey," Yakupov said after being selected.

The 2012 Draft marked the third straight year that the Oilers owned the No. 1 selection -- Tambellini chose left wing Taylor Hall in 2010 and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011. Yakupov, who played for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, entered the 2012 Draft as NHL Central Scouting's No. 1 overall North American skater.

Does Yakupov feel he's ready for the NHL as an 18-year-old?

"Why not?" Yakupov asked his questioner. "I think I'm ready for NHL. I want to try. I have whole summer to train and work with Edmonton. This is a great team, a young team, and they play good hockey. It'll be good playing with those players."

Yakupov played in 42 games for the Sting last season, producing 31 goals and 69 points He had a plus-15 rating and 12 power-play goals. Despite being sidelined on four occasions due to a back injury, knee injury, suspension and upper body ailment, he proved capable of handling any adversity.

"I just want to just work and show how I can play hockey and help my team to win every game … that's what I want," Yakupov said.

In 2010-11, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right wing had 101 points, including 49 goals, in 65 games en route to being named the OHL Rookie of the Month three times as well as the OHL Rookie of the Year and BMO Rookie of the Year in the CHL.

He also won a silver medal with Team Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship, notching a team-leading nine assists with a plus-5 rating in seven contests. Russia dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to Sweden in the gold-medal game.

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild