Playing With McDavid

yak McDavid

I’m just listening to this morning’s episode of Oilers Now! with Bob Stauffer and Mark Spector and they just finished talking about where Nail Yakupov fits on the team, is he a top-6 player on the Oilers, does Jesse Puljujarvi pass him on the depth chart, etc.

From the show:

MS: Where are you with Yakupov? He’s starting the season in Edmonton, they’re not going to trade him at this point. He’s not traded yet, he’s not moving. So you have to reform the player, you gotta reform the asset.
BS: Do you have to reform the agent while you’re at it?
MS: Well the agent should keep his nose out of it because his agent, as smart a guy as Igor Larionov is, he hasn’t done a darn thing to help Yakupov yet. 

I can’t disagree with these sentiments at all. There was a deal at the draft with Philly apparently but it fell through. Not sure why they’d want Yak at this point. The Flyers aren’t known to be the types to take on reclamation projects.

How many times do you think that Larionov has said to Yakupov, “Come on Nayeel… Why can’t you be more like Galchenyuk in Montreal?”

Yak is part of a new generation of players that need to be nurtured and brought along positively in my opinion. I think Bob Stauffer would be the first to admit that the days of breaking down the player and building him back up are over and that’s exactly what the Oilers tried to do under MacTavish and Eakins when they were trying to make Yak a two-way player… F*cking brutal. So now it’s on the Oilers to play to Yak’s tune because it is the organization’s fault for setting him back.

BS: Yakupov has shown no ability to play with others… His thing is he needs to learn how to co-exist with the four other linemates or teammates, you know, two linemates and a defense pair on the ice. So…
MS: Ya, okay but you’re not going to learn that in the summer anyhow. You’re not learning that at Perry Pearns 3-on-3 camp

We’ve been watching Yak since 2012. In his first year we didn’t hear too many complaints about his game, did we?

Everything has been catching up; it’s a process but his growth as a player is undeniable. Criag MacTavish raved about his development on After Hours last night and particularly highlighted Yakupov’s willingness to put extra work in. That kind of skill married to that kind of work ethic make him a very special player.” – Jonathan Willis (source)

In fact, there was a recent post put out by NHLNumbers introducing a metric called Dangerous Primary Shot Contributions. I talked about it last week here but the gist of it is if a player is impactful within the confines of this metric, then it’s a safe bet said player is quite good.

  • Connor McDavid ends up being 6th in the NHL in DPSC A1/60 (primary assists leading to dangerous primary shot contributions) AND DPSC/60.
  • Nail Yakupov fairs pretty well under this new study as a shooter eh? He ranked 15th in DPSC shots/60. Maybe they should keep this kid around and just set up him with a centre and do the whole “Hull and Oates” routine…

Now where I’m going with this is that Yak is a trigger man, we should expect nothing more or less from him. The Oilers should be treating him exactly like Brett Hull because his strengths lie in that style of play. To be honest, Yak is a much better athlete than Hull ever was but the Golden Brett had a knack of slipping the oppositions defense.

Do think that the defences of the other 29 NHL teams are going to be concerned with Nail Yakupov going into 2016/17?

MS: Did you ever think that Nail Yakupov would come to an Oilers camp and not be a top-6 player? And that’s what’s going on this fall, he does not walk in the door as a top-6 player.
BS: You got Puljujarvi ahead of him?
MS: Oh absolutely! I mean for now. Until he shows he can’t play.

I think this is a tad harsh. Nail Yakupov for all his defects is still an NHL player. Moreso than Jesse Puljujarvi by about 250 games. We don’t know if Puljujarvi is ready to play in the NHL yet. He hasn’t been on the ice since he had surgery on his knee at the end of last season. I’d go as far as to say that even if he is ready, he should go to the AHL.

MS: He’s a guy that because he’s played professional hockey in Finland, and he’s got the size… You know pro hockey in Finland, is it not the equivalent of hockey in the AHL? I’m going to say it is, isn’t it?

To me that doesn’t just mean you walk in and you’re handed an NHL job by any means but I suspect having played in that league, he may earn an NHL job.

Have the Oilers, the media, and the fans not learned anything over the previous 10 years that maybe, just maybe the Oilers’ first rounders don’t need to play for Edmonton right after being drafted? I mean honestly. What these kids need to do is show the Oilers that they are too good for the league they are in before playing a single game in the NHL.

So that means taking similar routes to what the Maple Leafs did with William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Puljujarvi has to show that he’s too good to play in the AHL before getting a shot in the NHL. And who knows, maybe it’d be even better for him to go back to Finland and spend another season playing there THEN come over to Edmonton a year stronger and smarter.

BS: Has Yakupov had someone who really wanted to play with him?

MS: Why would that be?… If guys don’t want to play with you at the NHL there’s a pretty good reason. 

BS: The one time for 12 games there was a glimmer there that occured with Connor McDavid.

MS: Sure. So you’re only valuable if you’re playing with possibly the best player in the world in the next couple years… Other than that, like it doesn’t work that way. You don’t just get to play with Connor because you look good with him. 

I can understand where Stauffer is coming from in that there probably aren’t many players that would like to play with Yak because he’s so unpredictable and in a league where things are static and creativity is frowned upon, that makes sense. Yakupov has to see that as well, right?


Who ever said it was up to the player as to who they play with? This solely comes down to the coaches and GM (if he’s looking to showcase a player), no? If players play well together, it’ll show in the numbers and the numbers tell us that Connor McDavid played VERY well with Jordan Eberle AND Nail Yakupov his right-wingers. They also tell us that Benoit Pouliot grounded the line defensively.

And don’t tell me that if the Oilers don’t keep Connor Happy he’ll leave. That’s the biggest line of bullshizzle I hear apart from all of the whining that Hall is gone. Stamkos didn’t go back to TO, Tavares has said not to bet on it, Vinnie Lecavalier was adamant about not going back to Montreal… Did Kariya go play in Vancouver, how about Mario in Montreal, Gretz go to the Big Smoke? It’s just not something players do in the NHL.

The other thing is, McDavid’s personality doesn’t ring true with that of previous 1st overall picks that the Oilers have had the opportunity to select. He does what’s best for the team and if that means playing with Yak, he’s fine with that. I mean he tore a strip off of Eberle last season did he not? When’s the last time you saw that?

The Hockey News wrote about how effective the Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov line was here.

Then there’s the oft-maligned Yakupov who’s had a troubling development curve. With McDavid as his center though, he looks to be back on track. Yakupov is taking almost 10 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 and has steadily improved that number every season. He’s shown potential as an elite trigger man in the past and with his shot rate steadily increasing he could start lighting the lamp very soon, especially with McDavid feeding him pucks.

On the wing, there’s the extremely underrated Pouliot who’s been an analytics darling for the past few years. Pouliot drives puck possession like very few wingers in hockey and is a complete 200 foot player. From 2012 to 2015, Pouliot has a shot attempt percentage of 52.4 which is over three percent better than when he’s on the bench. That’s a first line calibre puck possession rate and it’s because he’s so effective at retrieving pucks and winning battles. He’s also a more gifted scorer than he’s given credit for with a 5-on-5 points per 60 that’s hovered around a first line rate for the past seven seasons. Pouliot is very effective with or without the puck and if you give him some ice-time and he’ll produce.

If this line is as impactful as what Dominik Luszczyszyn is telling us, then wouldn’t it be prudent for the Oilers coaching staff to keep it together as the de facto 2nd line and put Lucic with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle and use them as the team’s no.1 line? Then toss Maroon on a line with Leon Draisaitl, and Pakarinen or perhaps even Tyler Pitlick makes an appearance there? Could Drake Caggiula line up alongside Leon? 

To me that makes a ton more sense to balance the lines as such. If only Iiro the Hero would shoot the puck in the NHL like he did at the AHL level…

I like the way that Matt Henderson summed it up in his latest post on the same topic:

If Nail Yakupov works well with McDavid, the team doesn’t suffer for it, and he can gain value then why not do this to make your asset more valuable. Instead of losing him for nothing in the expansion draft then why not make him worth something before the trade deadline? At this point it’s all about managing this asset. They’ve done a lot of damage keeping him with 4th line centers and suppressing his opportunities to play with talent. That’s done. It can’t be changed. It doesn’t mean they have to throw this player away when better options are available.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I’m the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I’ve been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I’ll never leave my Oilers, no matter what!

They’re with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • GCW_69

    I think you start Yak with McDavid, not for Yak, but because I believe Nuge needs Eberle to drive an effective second line. He isn’t going to drive enough offense if you put Yak there, and probably the same his with putting a rookie like JP next to Nuge.

    If three scoring lines is the dream, McDavid is going to have to carry Yak.

    Unless they sign Hudler. Then all bets are off.

  • superdutyfan

    when did Mcdavid blast Eberle ?
    I agree playing Yak with Mcdavid would pad his stats but increasing his trade value would be better playing with Draisaitl because no other team has a Mcdavid aside for the Pens and Caps Maybe.

    • Beer League Hero

      Sorry for the late reply. The new baby is delaying things and making forget a tonne of shit. lol.

      I don’t remember the exact game but McDavid was sitting on the bench and telling Eberle, “You’ve got to be there”. I’ve got screencaps of it. McDavid was bloody irate with Ebs.

  • defmn

    Sorting through the forward pairs or lines is going to be one of the more intriguing aspects of TC this fall. Personally I like the idea of starting TC with McD & Yak & Maroon to see just what our phenom young centre can do with those wingers. This allows Nuge to play with Eberle and Pouliot and Lucic with Draisaitl & Puljujarvi. This gives every line some size, skill and speed. Mix & adjust in game depending on factors like home or away games and matchups. I don’t think what we see in September will look the same all season but for TC I wouldn’t mind seeing Yak and Maroon get the push just to see if the mythical 3 offensive lines has finally made its way to Edmonton.

    • Beer League Hero

      I’m with ya there! I don’t know how long Yak is for Edmonton though… Sad part about that is, he’s going to break out of his shell this season and make the Oilers look like fools for dealing him.