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 Denver.com, 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.