Yakupov wants Plan A
Nail Yakupov didn’t want to talk about contingency plans.
But with an NHL lockout looming, the Edmonton Oilers winger admitted he had one if the season didn’t get underway in time.
“I think every player has a Plan B in case that happens,” Yakupov said Thursday. “My plan is inside (my head). Right now I’m just thinking about the Edmonton Oilers and playing in the NHL and that’s it.
“I’m excited about training camp and playing for the Oilers and in the NHL and helping the team win.”
Yakupov, 18, arrived in town fresh off his participation in the Canada-Russia challenge, which recently wrapped up in Halifax.
The Oilers first overall pick this summer is going along as if the season will start as scheduled, even though every time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players association executive director Donald Fehr speak that possibility seems less likely.
“I’m excited to be here,” Yakupov said. “I feel good about being here and I’m looking forward to the season.”
The first order of business for the winger is finding a place to live.
He’ll be house hunting as he prepares for the season and will bring his family over from Russia to live with him.
“They’re coming a little later,” Yakupov said. “They’re all coming, my mother, my father, my sister, the dog.”
Yakupov came to Canada from his home in Russia earlier than normal due to the four-game series between the best junior-aged players in the two respective countries. The series, which featured two games in Russia and another two in Canada, wrapped up on Tuesday.
Canada won the series with an overtime goal in the fourth and final game.
“Every time you play against Canada it’s exciting and it gets a little crazy,” Yakupov said. “They were different games back in Russia than they were in Canada. We have the big rink back home and in Canada they have the small rink. But it was fun playing in front of a lot of fans.
“They were good games. It was tough for some guys because some had played preseason games before that and some had not. But we showed we can play against Canada and that they’re not monsters and we were able to win two games.”
Yakupov has yet to meet most of his teammates, who are still away for the summer.
He did, however, speak briefly with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the draft and has spoken to Sam Gagner, who was with a number of players in Toronto with Fehr as the NHLPA presented their counter-offer to the league.
The Oilers training camp is scheduled to open in mid-September if the two sides can come to an agreement before the current one expires on Sept. 15.
If they league does lockout its players, Yakupov has the option of returning to his junior club in Sarnia, Ont., or perhaps even going to Russia to play in the KHL.
“I’m here right now and I’m going to start working out and getting to meet the guys,” Yakupov said. “I just want to be here and start getting ready for camp. There’s nothing for me to really do in Russia right now.
“There was no point in me going home (after the series) and then come back.”