MANY RIVERS TO CROSS

The 2012 entry draft was probably the most controversial in Oilers history, surpassing the “Doan! Doan!” hometown draft of 1995. The Oilers were a house divided leading up to the selection, with two defenders, a Swede and two brilliant Russians under consideration. They chose Nail Yakupov, and are one year away from having to make a decision on him: sign him long term, send him away via trade, or risk having him bolt back to Russia.

My sense is that Nail Yakupov wants to succeed in the NHL, and with the Edmonton Oilers. I’m not certain the organization is absolutely behind him, and wonder if this relationship is in its final months.

Nail Yakupov, NHL, per 82gp: 21-20-41

In a very real way, the Edmonton Oilers 2010+ may be defined by their handling of Nail Yakupov. If anything, I’m probably understating things. It’s a monster. eakins yakupov

I’m using Vollman’s numbers unless otherwise noted. OKC Barons photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved.

FORWARDS (per 82GP)

  1. Mitchell Moroz 11-8-19: He’s finishing up a successful junior career with a second Memorial Cup appearance. Moroz isn’t going to be an offensive force, the question is ‘can he play with skill’? I think the key is an ability to take and make a pass, and as Bruce McCurdy from Cult of Hockey told me this week, Moroz has periods of success and failure. Consistency. It’s tough in any discipline. Do you see him as a 4th liner? 3rd liner? I think it’s interesting that Jackson Houck matched him at 18-years old.
  2. Jujhar Khaira 6-10-16: This is a player I’ve ranked higher than Moroz, for a few reasons. He’s a center, he played for a button-down defensive coach and finally because of his Red Line scouting report: this kid is big, mean, aggressive, nasty, and guess what… he can score too. Does the dirty work in the corners, bangs bodies and wins battles, and loves to initiate heavy contact. Powerful stride with great balance and gets leverage on his hits. Has surprisingly soft hands and puck skills with playmaking ability. Creates lots of space for smaller teammates and makes everyone braver. Very raw defensively. Range of skills ladies. He was raw defensively, but he works hard and he played junior for a fanatical defensive coach. He showed well in a small AHL opportunity, and we’ll see. Nice arrows with this young man, despite the lack of offense.
  3. John McCarron 4-11-15: College man improved a little this year, I was hoping his offense would blossom. Still, big winger with some jam, that’s the kind of player Edmonton probably wants to add. And he’s not hopeless offensively.
  4. Daniil Zharkov 3-4-7: Zharkov played only 6:44 a night, which isn’t a lot, so the NHLE isn’t too bad. If we doubled it, he would be in the range with Khaira, which again is no screaming hell but better than 3-4-7. It’s so hard to know about these Euro kids, but I’m curious about what the Oilers plan to do with him. I like Zharkov, he’s a rangy fellow and it would be interesting to see what progress could be made with 3 AHL seasons. Will we see it?

Yakupov is going to be a great hockey player, wherever he lands. The followup on this: will he have company? I’m not sure. The 2011 draft (we’ll look at it tomorrow) is going to have plenty to keep Nuge company, but Yakupov is in danger of being a man on an island. It comes down to the WHL kids, and we’ll see. There’s a lot of tease, and a lot of worry. It’s like those relationships you have when you’re young: One minute you’re contemplating something prison-worthy and the next you’re booking passage to the moon.

 DEFENSE (per 82GP)

  1. Joey Laleggia 11-12-23: Offensive defender delivered another very good offensive season. This is the third good one, and he’s going back for the final year. I’m really tempted to get excited about this guy, but there’s not an organizational buzz and that must mean he’s a defensive nightmare. He’s a very skilled hockey player, one wonders if Edmonton has plans to sign him.
  2. Erik Gustafsson 2-16-18: A very nice season from 22-year old defender, I have no idea how they make room for him. His elite prospects bio says he can quarterback the power play, and Edmonton might be looking for help in that area. An encouraging season for this young man.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What do we have here? Laleggia must be the college Phil Larsen, can’t imagine he’s any good defensively. Gustafsson is a tougher nut, but MacT isn’t signing him so we have to assume there’s a hitch or a hump.

RANKING THE 2012 OILER DRAFT

  1. R Nail Yakupov
  2. C Jujhar Khaira
  3. L Mitchell Moroz
  4. D Erik Gustafsson
  5. R John McCarron
  6. D Joey Laleggia
  7. L Daniil Zharkov

The Oilers have one guy in the NHL, and two guys we’re about to find out about. This draft shows less promise than 2013, but we should expect that. Good and bad arrows become more abundant as years roll along (that’s what my wife says, anyway), and I think the prudent thing is to hold your breath when these kids turn pro. If one of Khaira and Moroz breaks 40 points in the AHL next season we’ll rejoice, but that would seem to be a distant bell (Moroz’ AHLE based on this season is 82gp, 24-18-42, but he’ll be a role player as a rookie pro).

I’m far more bullish about the 2011 draft, we’ll talk tomorrow. Prepare to be upset about it, though.

COMBINING THE 2012 AND 2013 DRAFTS (RANKED)

  1. R Nail Yakupov
  2. D Darnell Nurse
  3. C Greg Chase
  4. C Bogdan Yakimov
  5. C Jujhar Khaira
  6. L Marco Roy
  7. R Jackson Houck
  8. L Mitchell Moroz
  9. L Anton Slepyshev
  10. D Erik Gustafsson
  11. R John McCarron
  12. D Ben Betker
  13. D Joey Laleggia
  14. L Aidan Muir
  15. C Kyle Platzer
  16. L Daniil Zharkov
  17. L Evan Campbell

Agree? Disagree?

 

 

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41 Responses to "MANY RIVERS TO CROSS"

  1. One-Timer says:

    Is this the start of a mini-RE featuring Jimmy Cliff? You should put in the YouTube clips.

  2. anonymous says:

    It was that quote that Eakins lost the benefit of the doubt with me. It was going nowhere near fine and just proved to me that Eakins was only focused on the negative with Yakupov. Treating a fringe player like this is one thing but singling out a number 1 overall is crap. It’s gambling with one of the Oilers most valuable assets. To me Eakins only did this so he could show who’s boss without rocking the cradle too much. He has to go.

  3. One-Timer says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    Thanks! The scene (or video, really) of Jimmy in the studio recording the title track is just mesmerizing.

  4. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    I think you might be a bit bullish on the Swede and I still think we need to put miles of moldly tires between whomever is dead last (Muir IMO) and Evan Campbell.

  5. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    anonymous,

    to be fair, he never mentioned Yak by name.

  6. One-Timer says:

    It’s heartening to see so many pivots in your top-five. One good and lasting 3rd or 4th liner from that group would be just what this org needs. And if it ends up being Chase, they’ll be calling us the new Detroit. (I kid, I kid.)

    It would be unforgivable if Yak were mishandled because the Oil had become blasé about drafting #1′s. Surely this couldn’t happen in a professional organization…

    Also regarding Yak: yes he has to learn to play in his own end – they can’t afford another Gagner – but the system should be partly built around that shot of his too, no? Use what you’ve got, set up the play to feed him a steady diet of passes to the circle and build up his shot total. I’ve never ragged on Eakins because I just don’t know enough to criticize, but it feels like Yak’s primary talent is being seriously under-utilized. (He’s a pretty good passer too!)

    There, that’s my longest post to date.

  7. One-Timer says:

    Romulus Apotheosis:
    I think you might be a bit bullish on the Swede

    Needed at least one other D in the top 10?

  8. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    One-Timer: Needed at least one other D in the top 10?

    I’d have Betker and McCarron ahead of him. Maybe Platzer.

  9. One-Timer says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    I couldn’t say for myself, but does Big Ben get the benefit of the doubt for having attended a TC already?

  10. Lowetide says:

    Gustafsson had a helluva season. I like Betker a lot but Gustafsson is in a good league and delivering offense. I can’t see how we’d reasonably put the big man ahead of him.

  11. Ryan says:

    Cue Ryan who’s already gone on record here with a source who said that the Oilers tried to trade Yakupov at the trade deadline / or he’ll be gone at the draft….

  12. One-Timer says:

    Ryan:
    Cue Ryanwho’s already gone on record here with a source who said that the Oilers tried to trade Yakupov at the trade deadline / or he’ll be gone at the draft….

    That’ll be like the Curse of the Bambino.

  13. anonymous says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    He didn’t, but seems unlikely he was focused on anyone else. If memory serves this came about shortly after Yak seemed to be rebounding and then it was a steady dose of third period benchings and line demotions. The real crime was that the season was lost and the time could have been used to try and play him out of the funk. Much like the way Gagner was handled even though there was little evidence that it was helping.

  14. dessert1111 says:

    I’d swap slappy and moroz and bump betker to #10, but overall the list seems very accurate to me.

  15. anonymous says:

    Anyone else want to see a NYR/LAK final? Mess/Gretz opening face off.

  16. D says:

    Yakupov is my favourite player on this team – so my comments are biased. But he is this generation’s Paul Coffey – sublime and a little bit unconventional – and subject to a lot of trade rumours before (hopefully) going supernova. The Oilers need to stick with him.

  17. D says:

    I do. And it will likely be the highest TV rating Finals in NHL history.

    anonymous:
    Anyone else want to see a NYR/LAK final?Mess/Gretz opening face off.

  18. anonymous says:

    D,

    Mine too, partially because I went to a lot of his games when it looked like the Oilers had a shot at him. That’s why when I hear people trash his attitude or call him selfish it annoys me. Kid loves hockey more than life. Most of his problems are the oilers trying to change him, resulting in tentative and insecure play. I agree that all players need to play a rounded game but let the kid focus on his strengths before weaknesses. Steve Yzerman played an offence first game for ten years before focusing on the other end of the ice.

  19. D says:

    Agreed. And that was also the genius of Sather. He let those guys get the “offence first” out of their system in the early days, and when they got enough and recognized that tightening up on D and backchecking would win them Stanley Cups, they bought in.

    anonymous:

    Mine too, partially because I went to a lot of his games when it looked like the Oilers had a shot at him. That’s why when I hear people trash his attitude or call him selfish it annoys me. Kid loves hockey more than life.Most of his problems are the oilers trying to change him, resulting intentativeand insecure play. I agree that all players needto play a rounded game but let the kid focus on his strengths before weaknesses. Steve Yzerman played an offence first game for ten years before focusing on the other end of the ice.

  20. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Lowetide:
    Gustafsson had a helluva season. I like Betker a lot but Gustafsson is in a good league and delivering offense. I can’t see how we’d reasonably put the big man ahead of him.

    hmmm… I see what you are saying. But EG was drafted as an overager. He’s currently 2 1/2 years older than Betker. I think that accounts for a lot of my favoring Betker.

    While EG’s not small, Betker is a beast and if he can actually skate the way he’s described, he’d be a real gem of a pick.

    The wild card here is PP TOI and points. Betker doesn’t have any PP goals:

    http://whl.ca/roster/gameByGame/id/9325

    and, he had 0 PPA:

    http://whl.ca/stats/show/type/records/ls_season/245/ls_conf/7/subtype/3/first/300

    so, all his scoring is at evens.

    EG is however getting PP time and a fair amount of his points come from there apparently:

    http://www.coppernblue.com/2014/2/16/5418072/top-25-under-25-22-erik-gustafsson

    (how does one find TOI and discipline splits for the SHL? The CnB folks don’t credit a source)

  21. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    anonymous: He didn’t, but seems unlikely he was focused on anyone else.

    He was clearly talking about Yak.

    However, I’m simply noting he didn’t actually name him. There’s a slight messaging difference there.

  22. anonymous says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    This is true but third period benchings and line demotions as a result just further alienates a player who’s already playing a system he’s never been asked to in his life.

  23. Hammers says:

    Not sure Yak goes anywhere let alone super nova with Eakins as his coach . Just saying .

  24. OilClog says:

    Hammers:
    Not sure Yak goes anywhere let alone super nova with Eakins as his coach . Just saying .

    Pretty much.

    Eakins “well we tried to let him be offensive, the puck made a funny bounce over his stick, resulted in a turnover in the back of our net”

    Yakupov doesn’t see the ice again that game.. Happened about 45 times last year, I’ll say Eakins raises the bar and plays Lander in a scoring role over Yak because he has the ability to take a face off

  25. Bruce McCurdy says:

    anonymous: It was that quote that Eakins lost the benefit of the doubt with me. It was going nowhere near fine and just proved to me that Eakins was only focused on the negative with Yakupov.

    This comment and another one just like it pissed me off so much I wrote an entire post about it.

  26. Caramel Obvious says:

    Bruce McCurdy: This comment and another one just like it pissed me off so much I wrote an entire post about it.

    Comments like this make me crazy. It’s ironic how some people look for things to criticize in Eakins in exactly the same way they perceive (invent) that Eakins was looking to criticize Yakupov.

    If you’d care to you can also find comments where Eakins praises Yakupov. The facts show that Eakins played him a lot and that he had more shots per game than the previous year. But who cares about facts?

    Yakupov is pretty clueless on the ice. Any NHL coach would criticize him. That Eakins does so tells us nothing about Eakins, one way or the other.

  27. Caramel Obvious says:

    I should add, that I say this as a vehement defender of Omark, a player who actually didn’t get a fair shake

  28. anonymous says:

    Bruce McCurdy: This comment and another one just like it pissed me off so much I wrote an entire post about it.

    Sums it up well. The real problem will come if management decide to go with the rookie coach and dump Yakupov. For all the talk of continuity and blaming the players there is more than a small chance that Eakins is the problem. If you look deep enough there is no real evidence that Eakins is that great of a coach, he killed the Marlies power play for the duration of his tenure. Also he had a veteran team and as little track record with young offensive players.

    Hockey players are proud. Eakins was a career AHLer and fringe NHLer, could be he values the grinders more and talent less. Losing a first overall due to this would be a crime.

  29. anonymous says:

    Caramel Obvious,

    Yakupov was clearly eased into the lineup under Krueger, if you dont see a difference you’re not looking.

  30. mumbai max says:

    Interesting list below. Total number of PROFESSIONAL goals, including WHA, Olympics, Canada Cup, etc. Had no idea Bobby Hull had so many WHA goals! Anyway, it is a rainy Sunday afternoon, what do you want?

    ** second column numbers are reg season NHL goals

    1. Gretzky 1098 894
    2 Howe 1074 801
    3 Bobby Hull 1030 610
    4 Brett Hull 865 741
    5 Jagr 835 646
    6 Messier 814 694
    7 Gartner 797 708
    8 Esposito 796 717
    9 Yzerman 785 692
    10 Lemieux 784 690
    11 Kurri 781 601
    12 Dionne 778 731
    13 Selanne 767 596
    14 Robitaille 731 668
    15 Sakic 731 625

  31. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Dellow wrote a very good post about the “big mistake” and the psychology of coaches who obsess over turnovers:

    http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=6905

    I hope it’s on Eakins’ reading list this Summer.

  32. cahill says:

    Off Topic But Interesting;

    Aaron Portzline – Reports Umberger wants out.
    Portzline’s tweets;
    Dispatch: R.J. Umberger has requested he be traded this summer, and #CBJ will try to grant his wishes, sources say. To know R.J. Umberger (even a little bit) is to know that the late-season healthy scratches wounded him deeply. All indications are Umberger and Richards kept their relationship professional/respectful, but if the coach is staying long term – he is – it’s a tough spot.
    Umberger’s contract – $4.5M w a $4.6M cap hit thru 2016-17 – not easy.

    With Howson’s connections to CBJ plus the Oilers need to get better in the bottom 9 it might be a match. His point totals have went down the last couple of years but he’s the type of player the Oiler’s could use. Good size, can handle the toughs, can play up and down the lineup and likely wouldn’t cost much. If the Oilers add him without losing a roster player they could have some good options at forward.

    Hall-RNH-Eberle
    Umberger-Gordon-Perron
    Lander/Gazdic-Trevor Lewis-Hendricks

    Then the Yakupov line could be filled with Arcobello, Gagner-trade, Free Agency, 3rd Overall. But the point is you have options for a pillow soft line.

  33. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    cahill,

    thanks for passing that along.

    Umberger’s a guy that’s gets bandied about a lot here, typically because we assume he’d be the poison pill (that doesn’t actually kill you, but still isn’t ideal) that comes along with any larger trade.

    At that contract, they’d have to eat the salary or make it part of a bigger deal for me.

  34. Henry says:

    Romulus Apotheosis:
    Dellow wrote a very good post about the “big mistake” and the psychology of coaches who obsess over turnovers:

    http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=6905

    I hope it’s on Eakins’ reading list this Summer.

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    Dellow’s explanation of his point was so good even Steve Simmons probably understood it.

  35. Woodguy says:

    cahill,

    Umberger is done and has been done for 2 years.

    He may have been done earlier than that, but he took a regular shift with Nash.

    $4.6MM with 3 years left is a boat anchor of a contract.

    32 years old.

    He was a physical forward and like most physical forwards his ability and production start to head south in a hurry around age 30.

    It just gets worse from here.

    He’s right up MacT’s alley if the Clarkson and Ference pursuits are any indication.

  36. Hammers says:

    Woodguy:
    cahill,

    Umberger is done and has been done for 2 years.

    He may have been done earlier than that, but he took a regular shift with Nash.

    $4.6MM with 3 years left is a boat anchor of a contract.

    32 years old.

    He was a physical forward and like most physical forwards his ability and production start to head south in a hurry around age 30.

    It just gets worse from here.

    He’s right up MacT’s alley if the Clarkson and Ference pursuits are any indication.

    Yea and that scares me as well . McT needs an Umberger type at 25-26 not 32

  37. Woodguy says:

    Hammers: Yea and that scares me as well . McT needs an Umberger type at 25-26 not 32

    I’d take 28 years old at this point.

  38. gcw_rocks says:

    If you compare the number of times Eakins criticized Gagner to the number of times he criticized Yakopuv, you pretty much have all you need to know about Eakins.

  39. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Caramel Obvious: Comments like this make me crazy. It’s ironic how some people look for things to criticize in Eakins in exactly the same way they perceive (invent) that Eakins was looking to criticize Yakupov.

    Are you critiquing my comment above or the linked post that provides actual details about what pissed me off? I thought — and still think — Eakins was way offside throwing Yakupov under the bus on those two occasions. Oilers got crushed both nights, the entire team sucked, and Eakins singled out one mistake like it was the end of the world. It was pretty bush league IMO.

  40. Chicken Laser says:

    He should learn better defense, but he needs more rope on offense. Also, the coach is too tough on him and is restricting his freedom on offense. That’s what a lot of people say. What I see as a problem on offense right now however is that he has rhinovision and tries to do too much (this many people have also observed). But he misjudges pressure and thinks he can burst through multiple checkers. He tries to stick handle, and it bounces off an opponent’s stick or foot and he and the Oilers lose it. He seldom drifts in open ice long enough to assess pass outlets or make the opponents guess what he’ll do next. He doesn’t fake passes or shots much because he doesn’t see everything available. It would be great if he could create more chaos and opportunity by being more aware and making the opponents play multiple possible outcomes second by second.

    I don’t say this to dump on him, but only to say that even his offense is still incubating. I hope like heck it’s just a matter of time, and that he gets whatever coaching and opportunity he needs to become the best player he can be. I assert that his offense needs more specialized coaching or opportunity, but it’s not there yet.

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