The Oilers have announced that they have agreed to terms with forward Nail Yakupov on a two-year contract extension.
The 21-year-old established a new career high in points with 33 (14-19-33) in 81 games this season. The second half of the season is where Yakupov really put up numbers. 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.
At the trade deadline, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said he was pleased with the improvements Yakupov was making and that they were eager to extend him following the completion of his entry level contract.
“I see it to continue to evolve the way that it has,” said MacTavish. “We all see the promise now that we had when we drafted him. I had zero interest in trading Nail Yakupov. I think we’ve gone this far, we’ve got to see the end now. It has been some ups and downs, some sideways play and some head-scratching stuff and he’s on top of his game now. He shows all the assets that we saw when we drafted him: the speed, the physical power, the shot, he’s making good plays with the puck and who knows what unlatches all that for him, but he’s really figured it out. He’s playing with confidence, he’s a hardworking guy and we’ve got to see how it finishes. I’ve have no question that Yak is going to continue to develop and he’s got a reference point of what he needs to do now because he’s hit a new level. I’m as curious as anybody to see where that level goes because I think it’s sky high.”
Yakupov's centre, Derek Roy, says he saw strides in his linemate's game.
“Even the last couple of games, he was flying,” said Roy. “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 was taken first overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. He has 88 points (42-46-88) in 192 NHL games. He finished the season on a three-game point streak, including scoring his 14th goal of the season in Saturday's finale in Vancouver.