Nail Yakupov’s centre has been credited with helping the winger turnaround his game. The two developed chemistry over the last half of the season and Yakupov’s production shot up.
“Even the last couple of games, he was flying,” Derek Roy said of Yakupov’s improvement. “He was skating really good and moving the puck and making plays, getting shots through to the net and doing some of the small things that are going to make you successful in the league. The more he learns and the more he gets better, he’s going to be a dynamic player in the NHL. I believe that. That’s why I’ve just tried to help him as much as I could.”
Yakupov finished the season with 33 points, a new career high. He scored 14 goals and added 19 assists. It was the second half of the season that was the best for the 21-year-old Russian winger.
Post All-Star break, Yakupov recorded 21 of those 33 points, including nine of his goals. From February 9-18, Yakupov had a point streak of six games. He had a five-game streak from March 9-18.
Yakupov looks back on his season and says that Interim Coach Todd Nelson had an impact as well. Nelson took over solo responsibility as head coach behind the Oilers bench on December 30.
“Yeah, I think my last half of the year was pretty good,” said Yakupov. “I’m really happy to have Nelly. He gave me kind of a second life. I was really enjoying to play, really enjoying practice and to be around the hockey rink and play the game. I think that’s really the important thing in your favourite job. It was really, really good. I just want to thank Nelly too for giving me support. He was so nice to me and it just helps a lot, you know? I really enjoyed the (second half) of the year.”