Nail Yakupov thriving alongside Matt Duchene with Avalanche

Sven Andrighetto scored two goals and the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Boston Bruins.

Nail Yakupov may not be the superstar the Edmonton Oilers hoped for when they drafted him first overall, but he has found a fit in Colorado.

While it’s still early of course, Yakupov has come out of the gate flying to start the season. His goal Wednesday against the Boston Bruins was his team-leading third, tying his total from all of last year with the Blues.

“It’s hard to say,” Yakupov said post-game, according to BSN, when asked what has sparked his hot start. “It’s just the start of the year. I’ve been working hard in the summer and I have a fresh start right now. A new opportunity, new teammates, and everything works well right now. I just have to stick with that.”

On paper, Yakupov, who turned 24 on Oct. 6, is a perfect match for a Colorado team looking to turn things around. After scoring 17 goals in his rookie season with the Oilers, his numbers have been on the decline.

This summer Yakupov signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Avalanche after being outcast from a Blues team that focused on defence first. Now playing alongside Matt Duchene and rookie Alexander Kerfoot, Yakupov is getting a chance to show the offensive flair hockey fans have been waiting for.

“I like it,” Yakupov said about playing with Duchene and Kerfoot. “As a line, we join the play a little bit and we’re always talking.”

The line has combined for six goals and 12 points in only four games so far this season. This has led the Avalanche to a 3-1-0 start only a few months removed from a season that saw them deep in the NHL’s basement.

Duchene has been the subject of trade rumours all off-season but still finds himself with the Avalanche. While it’s not clear how long they’ll be together, Yakupov is enjoying getting to play alongside the veteran centre.

“Dutchy, Dutchy is a good player,” Yakupov said. “He’s been here in the league for a while and we’ve already done some movements. We just have to use each other, trust each other and create some chances. I think it works well right now.”

It’s still early. But Yakupov may have finally found his home.

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