ST. LOUIS -- Nail Yakupov was traded to the St. Louis Blues by the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, and the No. 1 pick from the 2012 NHL Draft is hoping a fresh start will kick-start his career.
"Obviously I think it's a good thing for me," the 23-year-old forward said. "For the last couple days, there were a lot of rumors and I was expecting something, but I didn't expect it was going to be St. Louis. I didn't want any thoughts in my head, and I play for my team, but now that it's happened, it's a really good move for me. I'm going to be playing for one of the best teams in the League. When I played against St. Louis, it was always hard. They had some big bodies and it was really, really tough to play against that team. I'm really looking forward for it."
The Oilers received forward prospect Zach Pochiro and a conditional third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft that will become a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft if Yakupov scores at least 15 goals for the Blues this season.
Video: Oilers trade Nail Yakupov to Blues, sign Russell
Yakupov is expected to arrive in St. Louis on Saturday but will not play against the Chicago Blackhawks in the final preseason game. He is expected to be on the ice Monday. The Blues open the regular season Oct. 12 at Chicago.
NHL Trade Tracker: Official deals since May 25
Yakupov had 50 goals and 61 assists (111 points) in 252 games with the Oilers but never lived up to the billing of a No. 1 pick; he had eight goals and 15 assists in 60 games last season, his fourth with Edmonton.
"There was a lot of changes and there were a lot of coaches (in Edmonton)," Yakupov said. "There's a lot of good players [in Edmonton], 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 (since 2005-06). I tried everything I could. I played with heart. I went about my business and tried to help my team win games."
Video: Yakupov answers questions on conference call
Asked specifically what didn't work for him, Yakupov said, "I don't know. That's a good question. There were a lot of players and they wanted to be in the top six. Maybe the coaches didn't like me, or someone else, but honestly, I don't know the answer to that question."
Pochiro was a fourth-round pick (No. 112) by the Blues in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has not played an NHL game. The 22-year-old had nine goals and 17 assists (26 points) inn 44 games with Quad City of the ECHL last season.
"We started talking about [the trade] a little more in earnest yesterday," St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We had to do our due diligence and did some final touches in the last 24 hours. I don't want to call it a gamble, because it's a former first overall pick that probably needs a change of scenery. He's excited to be here; we're excited to have him."
Armstrong said he hopes Yakupov simply fits in and doesn't feel like he has to stick out.
"All we want him to do is come in here and be part of our group of 12 (forwards) to start with," Armstrong said. "I think when you're taken that high in the draft, sometimes a change of scenery allows you to just settle into the player that you can become. We just think he's going to be a good player. He's got obviously a skill to complement our group, and we think the game is trending to younger players, faster players. ... It just seemed like a short- and long-term risk worth taking. He's obviously got talent and skill, and I think maybe playing with a veteran team in a defined role will help him. We're going to let his play dictate where he plays and who he plays with."
One of those players could be right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who texted Yakupov on Friday to wish him a happy birthday. Yakupov turned 23 on Thursday.
Video: Armstrong discusses acquisition of Yakupov
Yakupov said he is glad the trade talk is behind him and he's ready to concentrate on hockey.
"I hope and I believe yes," Yakupov said. "It's been a while, and I had some bad days and good days. I think I had a lot of pressure on my head and a lot of thoughts, especially with the way things were going every day. It affects your game and your life, but I tried my best not to think about it. Now I know this is over and this is a team I can be and do the best I can. I believe it's a really, really nice team."