NHL: Nail Yakupov has the Hunger of a Number One Pick

Al Dannity | Updated Apr 16, 2012

With Columbus missing out on the top pick despite a valiant Fail for Nail campaign, Nail Yakupov’s status as the first player picked in the NHL Entry Draft went from ‘sure thing’ to ‘highly probable’. Hardly a staggering collapse but Al Dannity says Yakupov is doing all the right things to ensure his name is called first in June.

The right moves We know Yakupov has serious skills on the ice, now it appears he has the brains to say the right things too. Yakupov’s agent, Russian legend Igor Larianov, announced Yakupov’s desire to be the #1 pick and to play for Edmonton in the NHL last week. Yakupov confirmed as much in person over the weekend. “I definitely want to go to Edmonton and play for the Oilers for sure,” he told reporters. “I’ve played in Canada, in Sarnia, for the last two years. I love the people. I very much want to play for a Canadian team like Edmonton. I want to play for those guys.”

He was equally clear in his desire to be the top of the pile in the draft. “No. 1 is No.1. I don’t want to be second or third,” said Yakupov. That’s the kind of winning attitude fans in Edmonton lust after. The Russian star also raved about his experience playing in Calgary in the World Junior Championships. In short, this is a player who wants to make sure people in Canada know he wants to play there. There also could be some clever thinking behind his broad praise for clubs north of the border.

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Where will he land? The Oilers are definitely high on the prospect of drafting Yakupov. The organisation has already lauded his attitude as prospective top pick in the draft. Nothing however is certain and the Oilers have hinted that they are open to trade offers. One franchise is perfectly placed to come in with a tempting offer. The Maple Leafs have just enough assets and more than enough desperation to go all-in on Yakupov.

In terms of significant needs, Yakupov doesn’t really address the problems Toronto has on the ice. The Leafs sorely need a big center but the wing offers one thing no other player in this draft can, excitement[http://sports.nationalpost.com/2012/04/14/maple-leafs-need-to-make-deal-with-oilers-for-top-pick-in-2012-nhl-entry-draft/]. Getting the #1 pick won’t come cheap but, of all people, Brian Burke could be the key for the Leafs should they look to make a move. Burke has previously engineered draft trades that turned into Chris Pronger for the Whalers and both Sedins to the Canucks. After facing a firestorm in the press, and rightfully so, Burke might buy himself a future in Toronto should he somehow find a way to ‘Nail’ this one.