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DRAFT CENTRAL: Yakupov Interview

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The second day of the NHL Draft week here in Pittsburgh has been filled with activity -- for both the media and the 2012 top prospects. Thursday began with a media availability and luncheon on the Empress 2 riverboat. It was a gorgeous day (a little warm, but hey, it's summer!) and we had a nice meal before taking a cruise down the river.

Just don't ask me which river it was; there are three of them and two are almost impossible to spell (haha). We caught up with several of the prospects that were made available today and had some really entertaining conversations. The kids were relaxed, but each expressed a desire to get to tomorrow night's draft and get things going. There has been a lot of build-up and hype -- now they're ready to see how things unfold.

One of the biggest personalities of the week has easily been Nail Yakupov, this year's top-ranked North American skater. During the batting practice event over at PNC Park, Yakupov struggled to make solid contact -- but when he sent a chopper up the middle, he took off out of the batter's box...but ran to second base. We'll give him a pass, but he did show some good wheels.

Here's some highlights from Yakupov's conversation with the media during today's luncheon:

On the experience of draft week overall:
“I’m enjoying it here. I’m having fun with the guys, and I’m here with my family. I’m just waiting for the draft, and I don’t feel any pressure and I’m not nervous. We’ll just wait for tomorrow and see what happens.”

Have you started to think about going first overall?
“Not thinking about that. I’m just thinking about the draft, that’s it.”

When did you start to think that going No. 1 was realistic? “I think everyone wants to be first. You want to be first, too, right? I think it was my dream to play in the NHL and to make it here. First is first; I want to be the top player in the NHL.”

How nice is it to have a teammate/friend like Alex Galchenyuk here with you? “The first year (in North America) was tough because you don’t know the language, but Gally was with me always that year, helping to translate. He got tired of translating, so I tried to learn (English) and keep going, move forward and try to talk with the guys in the dressing room and on the bus. Gally helped me a lot, and his family. It’s great.”

Do you have any sense of what the Oilers might do with the No. 1 pick? Any ideas?
“We just talked about my life. Nothing about the draft, really. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

NOTE: Stay tuned to the blog, as we'll have a lot more to come this afternoon and evening from Pittsburgh. Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson is scheduled to meet with the media around 5 p.m. (ET). JacketsTV will be there to film the media session, and we'll have highlights on Twitter (@BlueJacketsNHL) as well as a recap on the Draft Central blog.
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