Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish opened the question-and-answer segment of his year-end press conference with comments on Nail Yakupov, who the organization agreed to terms with on a two-year contract extension this morning.
MacTavish was impressed with the turnaround that Yakupov had in his game from the first half of this season to the last half.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen any transformation like that in all my years in hockey,” said MacTavish. “He really did become a very valuable player down the stretch. Whatever ignites that, whether it’s a conversation, a linemate or a coach or a level of experience, it’s really hard to identify what ignites that but there’s no denying that Yak has turned a corner.”
Yakupov also spoke to the media, and was asked if he sees himself as part of the “core” group of Oilers youth.
“I’m just trying to do my best and trying to make my team happy and get some points every game and just trying to improving my game every day, every game, every practice and everywhere. Of course, I just want to be the best player and just want to work every day. That’s it,” said Yakupov.
MacTavish says Yakupov has shown the potential and growth that made him the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. That makes him an integral part of the organization moving forward.
“From what I talked about before, our growth is going to be internal growth and incremental growth and Yak in his development is a byproduct of that strategy and something that’s going to be continued,” said MacTavish. “We’ve talked about, there was a lot of discussion involving, Yak and about the potential to trade but, again, I’ve said and I’ve been consistent in what I’ve said that it’s not my preference, I don’t think it’s good strategy, to trade developing players. I think that’s been rewarded and Yak has been rewarded with a two-year contract.”