Oilers winger Nail Yakupov has been given an opportunity to play in the top six and he has run with it. Yakupov has points in four of the last five games and three straight. In that span, the 22-year-old has posted two goals and four assists for six points.
“He’s starting to figure out what will make him successful,” said Yakupov’s linemate Benoit Pouliot. “He’s going to the right spot, he’s doing the right things and you can see the success he’s having now. He’s getting much better at being more consistent, and following the game plan. I think it helps us. It helps me and (Connor) McDavid a lot.”
Yakupov didn’t start camp or the regular season in the role he has now, but he moved up the ranks due to injury and circumstance. He has earned more of an opportunity with good play along the way. His setup of Mark Letestu in last night’s win over Detroit was a nice play and a smart decision in his own end led to McDavid’s highlight-reel goal later in the game.
“I think he’s earned it. It’s not me rewarding him. It’s him rewarding himself for some really good play and the ability to create on that line,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “That line has been very reliable, it’s been dynamic, it’s been good offensively and, more importantly, it’s been fairly good defensively. He should feel good about himself, he should feel good about his linemates, and they should want to keep this alive. That’s their goal now, to keep this line alive, to keep it energized and productive. I believe that Yak’s offence right now is coming from good defensive positioning by his linemates and by him, taking care of responsibilities away from the puck and thus creating opportunities offensively.”