Kypreos: Oilers should hang on to Yakupov

Nail Yakupov of the Edmonton Oilers. (Tony Guiterrez/AP)

Former first overall draft pick (2012) Nail Yakupov scored his fourth goal in six games during the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 shootout win over the Boston Bruins Wednesday.

The 21-year-old has seven points over that six-game stretch, which accounts for 35 per cent of his offensive output this season. Yakupov has effectively played his way out of the doghouse in Edmonton under head coach Todd Nelson.

Sportsnet insider Nick Kypreos joined Brady & Walker on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday, where talk playfully centred around a hypothetical trade that would see Yakupov go to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender and impending restricted free agent Jonathan Bernier. Kypreos scoffed at the idea.

“Edmonton would not make that deal,” Kypreos said. “Not a chance. If they are, someone should be fired immediately.”

Yakupov spent most of his five-on-five minutes skating on a line centred by 19-year-old Leon Draisaitl under former head coach Dallas Eakins. The Russian has found chemistry on a line with veteran Derek Roy under Nelson, and Kypreos said it shows in more ways than just the boxscore.

“It appears that the shackles are off. His body language is great,” Kypreos said. “He’s skating better, shooting the puck, handling the puck.”

So has Yakupov’s improved play removed him from trade talks?

Kypreos, for one, wouldn’t be itching to pull the trigger on a deal involving Yakupov just yet.

“You let this thing ride out,” Kypreos said. “You’re going to find out how good of a pick, at first overall, Yakupov is before you even think about moving him out in the off-season… unless you get an offer you can’t refuse.”

Yakupov has nine goals and 20 points in 59 games this season.

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