Nail Yakupov will skate on a line with Benoit Pouliot and rookie first-round pick Leon Draisaitl. His role tonight will be to help Draisaitl along in his first NHL game, as the two of them developed a friendship over the summer.
Yakupov will also be expected to shoot the puck as much as possible, according to Head Coach Dallas Eakins.
“I talked to Nail this morning and he’s got to help Leon tonight,” Eakins said. “He’s got to help him through this. We’re looking to have him show some leadership there. Him and Leon have a great relationship so we’re looking for that. Nail has expanded his game. He understands where he’s supposed to be on the ice defensively now, he’s much better at it, I think he’s going to get the puck a lot more with Leon being able to distribute it. Leon is going to be constantly looking to that side because he’s a left-handed shot and Nail is on the right side. We want Nail to attack the net. Nail is always going to pay his best when he’s scoring, when he’s getting his points and when he’s getting his chances. That’s what he wants to do. We want energy, we want responsibility and we want him to be getting his chances. I certainly don’t want that player passing up any shots. He does not need to be nice to Pouliot and Leon. When he has the puck in a shooting area, put it at the net.”
Yakupov is eager to skate with his new linemates, particularly Draisaitil who is a playmaker and could benefit the scoring winger.
“He moves the puck quick,” Yakupov said of Draisaitl. “He doesn’t like to keep the puck all the time with him. He likes to see open players and open wingers. It’s my job to get open in the offensive zone and just make some shots. I think that’s really important… He’s just an unbelievable playmaker. He moves the puck really well and we’ll see what happens. I think we’re going to play really well.”