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Fantasy impact: Kris Russell to Oilers

Consider shot-blocking defenseman with late pick; Nail Yakupov worth monitoring after trade to Blues

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Defenseman Kris Russell agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. With an improved Oilers offense and the chance to play on the power play, Russell is worth selecting late in a 12-team fantasy draft, but higher in a league that counts blocked shots.

Russell, who likely will start the season on Edmonton's third defense pair, is used to playing top-four minutes. Over the past three seasons, the 29-year-old has averaged 23:00 or more of ice time per game.

Video: CGY@NSH: Gaudreau sets up Russell for OT winner

Other than Andrej Sekera, Russell arguably has the most offensive upside of any Oilers defenseman, having scored an NHL career-high 34 points in 2014-15 with the Calgary Flames.

If coach Todd McLellan decides to use two defensemen on the first power play, Sekera and Russell could man the points on a unit with center Connor McDavid, left wing Milan Lucic and right wing Jordan Eberle. Russell had an NHL career-high 14 power-play points with the Flames in 2014-15, a number he's capable of surpassing with the Oilers.

If you're playing in a blocks league, Russell's value gets a big boost. In 62 games with the Dallas Stars and Flames last season, he finished second in the NHL with 210 blocked shots. He led the League in 2014-15 with 283 in 79 games for the Flames.

The Oilers on Friday also traded forward Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, to the St. Louis Blues.

Video: MIN@EDM: Yakupov steals the puck, slams it home

Yakupov isn't worth drafting in a 12-team league but would get consideration in deeper formats and should be monitored early in the regular season.

The change of scenery certainly should help Yakupov, but his role with the Blues is unclear. St. Louis lacks depth at wing with Jaden Schwartz expected to miss four weeks with an elbow injury. The Blues may feel more comfortable with David Perron playing on the third line and shifting Alexander Steen back to his natural position of left wing, leaving a spot open for Yakupov at right wing on the second line with center Jori Lehtera and either Steen or Robby Fabbri.

Yakupov had eight goals and 15 assists in 60 games with Edmonton last season and played well with McDavid. He had an NHL career-high 33 points and 191 shots on goal in 2014-15, and if he sticks in the St. Louis' top nine for a full season, he has a chance to eclipse those numbers with an improved plus/minus and potential to play on the second PP unit.

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