Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish opened the question-and-answer segment of his year-end press conference with comments on Nail Yakupov, who the organization agreed to terms with on a two-year contract extension this morning.
MacTavish was impressed with the turnaround that Yakupov had in his game from the first half of this season to the last half.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen any transformation like that in all my years in hockey,” said MacTavish. “He really did become a very valuable player down the stretch. Whatever ignites that, whether it’s a conversation, a linemate or a coach or a level of experience, it’s really hard to identify what ignites that but there’s no denying that Yak has turned a corner.”
Yakupov also spoke to the media, and was asked if he sees himself as part of the “core” group of Oilers youth.
“I’m just trying to do my best and trying to make my team happy and get some points every game and just trying to improving my game every day, every game, every practice and everywhere. Of course, I just want to be the best player and just want to work every day. That’s it,” said Yakupov.
MacTavish says Yakupov has shown the potential and growth that made him the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. That makes him an integral part of the organization moving forward.
“From what I talked about before, our growth is going to be internal growth and incremental growth and Yak in his development is a byproduct of that strategy and something that’s going to be continued,” said MacTavish. “We’ve talked about, there was a lot of discussion involving, Yak and about the potential to trade but, again, I’ve said and I’ve been consistent in what I’ve said that it’s not my preference, I don’t think it’s good strategy, to trade developing players. I think that’s been rewarded and Yak has been rewarded with a two-year contract.”
The Oilers have announced that they have agreed to terms with forward Nail Yakupov on a two-year contract extension.
The 21-year-old established a new career high in points with 33 (14-19-33) in 81 games this season. The second half of the season is where Yakupov really put up numbers. Post All-Star break, Yakupov recorded 21 of those 33 points, including nine of his goals. From February 9-18, Yakupov had a point streak of six games. He had a five-game streak from March 9-18.
At the trade deadline, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said he was pleased with the improvements Yakupov was making and that they were eager to extend him following the completion of his entry level contract.
“I see it to continue to evolve the way that it has,” said MacTavish. “We all see the promise now that we had when we drafted him. I had zero interest in trading Nail Yakupov. I think we’ve gone this far, we’ve got to see the end now. It has been some ups and downs, some sideways play and some head-scratching stuff and he’s on top of his game now. He shows all the assets that we saw when we drafted him: the speed, the physical power, the shot, he’s making good plays with the puck and who knows what unlatches all that for him, but he’s really figured it out. He’s playing with confidence, he’s a hardworking guy and we’ve got to see how it finishes. I’ve have no question that Yak is going to continue to develop and he’s got a reference point of what he needs to do now because he’s hit a new level. I’m as curious as anybody to see where that level goes because I think it’s sky high.”
Yakupov's centre, Derek Roy, says he saw strides in his linemate's game.
“Even the last couple of games, he was flying,” said Roy. “He was skating really good and moving the puck and making plays, getting shots through to the net and doing some of the small things that are going to make you successful in the league. The more he learns and the more he gets better, he’s going to be a dynamic player in the NHL. I believe that. That’s why I’ve just tried to help him as much as I could.”
Yakupov was taken first overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. He has 88 points (42-46-88) in 192 NHL games. He finished the season on a three-game point streak, including scoring his 14th goal of the season in Saturday's finale in Vancouver.
The Oilers are holding their end of the year media availability at Rexall Place. Stay tuned for more coverage, including videos, audio podcasts and blogs.
- Schultz on getting stronger
- Nelson reflects
- Improvement in Yakupov
- Roy has had talks with Oilers
- Ference on his recovery
- Read all blog posts
Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz wasn’t very pleased with how the 2014-15 season played out.
“It obviously wasn’t a good year for me and the team,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of improvement to work on this summer. I thought there were times where I thought I was improving and times where I wasn’t. It’s going to be a big summer for me to come back and be ready to play in the fall.”
The improvement he talked about starts with the battles in the corners and along the wall. That is an area of Schultz’s game that he wants to improve. Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson sees that as an area for growth as well.
“Everybody can up their battle level and that’s one thing we talked with Justin about,” said Nelson. “He’s been making the conscience effort to do so. You can see him, with the battle drills in practice, make an effort to get better. That has improved, especially over the last couple of weeks. That’s a focal point.”
For Justin to be able to win more of those battles, he intends to hit the gym and put an emphasis on getting stronger and upping the intensity this off-season.
“For me, it’s obviously building some more strength to help me in the battles in the corners and my defensive game, which is obviously something I need to improve on. That’s going to be my focus and hopefully I can make some strides this summer,” Schultz said.
The defenceman played 81 games this season, recording 31 points (6-25-31) and 31 penalty minutes. He was -17.
Todd Nelson coached the Oilers, under the interim tag, to a record of 17-22-7 since taking over full-time on December 30. Time has flown by for Nelson in his first NHL head coaching action.
“Well, personally, it’s been great,” said Nelson. “It’s been a great experience ever since I got the call from (Oilers GM Craig MacTavish). I was grateful for the opportunity and I think that we’ve made some positive strides moving forward. There are some building blocks we can lean on moving forward.”
The Oilers will continue their evaluation process moving forward into the off-season. That evaluation includes the head coaching position and the future of that office for the Oilers. Nelson is sure to be a candidate for that job, and thinks he put his best foot forward.
“I have no regrets about how I handled things,” he said. “I went about it day by day and, like I’ve said before, there’s a lot of work to do here but I think that we made some positive strides in certain areas. I was happy for the experience and I had a great time.”
Under his watch, Nelson feels there were improvements.
“Some of the positive things I saw was when I first got here there were some situations where we’d be up a few goals and then a team would score a goal and we’d get a bit rattled,” said Nelson. “We saw the team grow as the season went on where when that happened again we hunkered down and preserved the victory. I think as a group, I saw some positive signs with that and it has to continue moving forward. There are some building blocks that we can work on next season.”
Nelson spoke with the team before they depart to various homes and vacation spots. His message was simple.
“I didn’t say much. I just said, ‘thanks for the work that you put in and thanks for doing the things or trying to do the things I wanted (you) to do, and have a good summer.’ I thanked them for their time. For the most part, they gave me what they had and that’s all I can ask for,” said Nelson.
As for whether or not Nelson would return to the Oilers in some capacity other than head coach, he wasn’t ready to say.
“I haven’t really given much thought to that,” he explained. “Everything is pretty fresh, but I enjoy working here, I enjoy the people I work with, they’re fantastic people and it’s always a great day to come to the rink.”
So what’s next for Nelson? “A lot of fishing,” he says. Fishing and waiting, as the two go hand in hand. But as for if he wants to be back next year, Nelson says, “absolutely.”
Nelson will head to Oklahoma City to offer his support to the Barons during their Calder Cup playoff run.
Davidson, 23, appeared in 12 games with the Oilers this season, posting his first career National Hockey League goal on March 30th against the Colorado Avalanche.
Marincin, 23, registered five points (1G, 4A) and 16 penalty minutes in 41 games with the Oilers. He recorded his first NHL goal on March 25th against the Colorado Avalanche.
Musil, 22, appeared in four games with the Oilers, posting two assists and two penalty minutes, including his first NHL point that came on April 7th against the Los Angeles Kings.
Nail Yakupov’s centre has been credited with helping the winger turnaround his game. The two developed chemistry over the last half of the season and Yakupov’s production shot up.
“Even the last couple of games, he was flying,” Derek Roy said of Yakupov’s improvement. “He was skating really good and moving the puck and making plays, getting shots through to the net and doing some of the small things that are going to make you successful in the league. The more he learns and the more he gets better, he’s going to be a dynamic player in the NHL. I believe that. That’s why I’ve just tried to help him as much as I could.”
Yakupov finished the season with 33 points, a new career high. He scored 14 goals and added 19 assists. It was the second half of the season that was the best for the 21-year-old Russian winger.
Post All-Star break, Yakupov recorded 21 of those 33 points, including nine of his goals. From February 9-18, Yakupov had a point streak of six games. He had a five-game streak from March 9-18.
Yakupov looks back on his season and says that Interim Coach Todd Nelson had an impact as well. Nelson took over solo responsibility as head coach behind the Oilers bench on December 30.
“Yeah, I think my last half of the year was pretty good,” said Yakupov. “I’m really happy to have Nelly. He gave me kind of a second life. I was really enjoying to play, really enjoying practice and to be around the hockey rink and play the game. I think that’s really the important thing in your favourite job. It was really, really good. I just want to thank Nelly too for giving me support. He was so nice to me and it just helps a lot, you know? I really enjoyed the (second half) of the year.”
At the trade deadline, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said the team was unlikely to deal pending unrestricted free agent Derek Roy. They were in the, “process of reaching out to him to see what his feeling is in terms of getting into a relationship” with the team moving forward.
They, in fact, did not deal Roy and he finished out the 2014-15 season, having played 46 games for the Oilers since being acquired from Nashville on December 29. He averaged just under a half point per game with Edmonton, recording 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points.
“I think I just came in here and tried to work as hard as I can in all areas of the game and got better as the season went on and felt really comfortable with myself on the ice. And I was healthy, which is the main thing. Going into the off-season, I’m healthy so that’s a great start and I’m going to get back to work and get ready,” said Roy.
Now the sights turn to potentially locking up the 31-year-old centre, who has provided a much-needed veteran presence beside Nail Yakupov. Roy confirmed on Sunday that his representation has had talks with the Oilers.
“Yeah, there have been some talks and I’m just sitting in the background and waiting for some news. Hopefully, we’ll get something done,” he said.
Roy felt welcome in the Oilers locker room right from the first day. It is well-documented the impact he has had on an individual like Yakupov and on the team, as a veteran.
“The guys were welcoming right away, so that was great. I came in and then right away the guys were great from the practice to the game on the first day and I felt welcome right away, which is a huge thing. My competitiveness and the way I work hard every day in practice, I don’t know, maybe rubs on some of the guys and it was a fun process,” said Roy.
The centre has played 738 regular season NHL games in his career, scoring 189 goals and adding 335 assists. He has 49 games of NHL playoffs experience, recording 27 points in the post-season.
Whether or not the two sides reach an agreement is yet to be determined.
Oilers Captain Andrew Ference suffered a concussion on March 23, in a game against the Winnipeg Jets. He played just 2:27 before missing the remainder of that game. He has not played since, as it has been a long road to recovery. But he may be out of the worst part, speaking to the media about his health on Sunday.
“It’s coming along,” said Ference. “I’ve been lucky in my career, I think this is only my second, questionably third, concussion. They’re difficult. For about two weeks, you get that feeling like you’ve been on a fishing boat for eight hours and you come off and you just get a rocking (feeling). The balance and stuff like that is messed up. If you’ve never had one before it’s kind of hard to explain. It’s kind of a mix between coming off a boat and being hungover and it doesn’t go away. Luckily, over the last couple of days it’s been good. I was able to skate quite a bit, just to measure if it’d get worse from activity and it’s coming along just fine.”
Ference spoke about the protocol the NHL has for dealing with concussions, saying there has been progress since he came into the league during the 1990-2000 season, and even just over the last few years.
“There are two ways to look at it. It’s scary when you feel that way, but it’s also amazing the difference that four or five or six years makes with the way that they handle them as well,” he said. “Earlier in my career, there’s no way that a trainer would have held you back to say, ‘slow down, take your time and make sure we’re doing this the right way.’ Now, any symptoms whatsoever and they’re holding you out and making sure that you’re back to 100%. The progress is there and I think that’s the important thing. As far as prevention and the rules and trying to do it, it’s tough. When it does happen, getting the full recovery from doctors and trainers and making sure that the clubs are taking care of it, that message has obviously gotten through and they’re doing as good a job as they can with it. That’s progress.”
Ference, 36, has played in 901 NHL games over the course of his career for the Penguins, Flames, Bruins and Oilers. He played 70 games this season, scoring three goals and adding 11 assists and 39 penalty minutes.
Matt Hendricks is skating with the team.
Gazdic-Hendricks-Klinkhammer (Hamilton rotating)