Yakupov, Galchenyuk help each other navigate Draft
PITTSBURGH -- Alex Galchenyuk was waiting for a meeting with an NHL team here Wednesday. It was an interview two days before the biggest one of his life to date, and it could have had a huge influence on where he might be playing hockey in the near future.
An 18-year-old kid might be pretty nervous before such an important event, not knowing what the people sitting across the table from him are going to ask or what to say. But Galchenyuk had a bit of an advantage -- his teammate of the past two seasons, Nail Yakupov, was meeting with the team -- either the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Carolina Hurricanes -- just before him. Yakupov passed along a quick scouting report.
"He told me right away, ‘Be ready. They were pretty mean,' and stuff," Galchenyuk said.
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Yakupov and Galchenyuk are two of the highest-rated players available in the 2012 NHL Draft, and both are likely to be among the first called to the stage at Consol Energy Center. While they didn't get to play together as much this past year for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League because of a knee injury that sidelined Galchenyuk for much of the 2011-12 season, the two have been able to navigate the draft process together.
They have been able to compare notes after meeting with teams, meeting with the media or just talk about what clubs they dream of playing for some day.
"It is nice to have [Yakupov] around," Galchenyuk said. "He's going through the same things, the same media. To have someone around like him, it has just been fun playing with him for the last two years and being around him."
Added Yakupov: "It was great town, great city, great fans. I felt very comfortable playing in Sarnia. They helped me a lot. They help me be here in the draft. It was good experience for me to play with [Galchenyuk]."
Thursday night was very likely to be their last as teammates. Yakupov could be the No. 1 selection, likely by the Edmonton Oilers unless they trade the pick. Galchenyuk isn't likely to have to wait much longer.
The next time they might be teammates could be an NHL All-Star Game, but their families have enjoyed being together one last time in Pittsburgh.
"We have dinner together with our families," Yakupov said. "We're just here together and having fun."
Added Galchenyuk: "That's I think how it works. We're both pretty good players so I don't think there is much of a possibility that we could go to the same team. He's going his way, and I'm going my way. We just can't wait for tomorrow to find out where."
While it has been an advantage for the two kids to have each other during this process, some teams have tried to use their situation to gain one as well.
"We just talk about the crazy meetings and stuff like that," Galchenyuk said. "It was not really crazy stuff, but in almost every meeting they ask, ‘Tell us about [Yakupov]. Tell his bad parts or stuff like that. Same thing with him -- they ask him, ‘is there any weaknesses in [Galchenyuk's game].