The Edmonton Oilers have toiled at the depths of the NHL standings for years, and they've collected more prospect depth than any team in the NHL as a result. After eight seasons of struggling, Dallas Eakins and Co. believe they're about ready to turn the page and become a playoff team, and patience with those young stars is wearing thin.
Nail Yakupov -- the player taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft-- was a healthy scratch on Saturday night in the Oilers loss to Toronto. Via The Edmonton Journal, here's Eakins speaking about Yakupov's developlent:
"He's young and he has so much to learn about the proper way to play the game and once he grasps that, he is going to be dangerous when he steps on the ice."
The 20-year-old forward opened his NHL career with a team-leading 17 goals and finished fourth on the Oilers in total points (31). Through four games this season, Yakupov has yet to register a point, which Eakins believes is starting to affect his mental approach to the game:
"The kids' passion is to score and he was just going to take it all on himself to do that. I don't care how good you are, you can't produce by yourself in this league. You have to use your linemates, so it was more of a reset button for him. He can come in fresh with a new perspective."
However, Yakupov expressed that he's not overly interested in a new perspective:
"I'm going to play my game. I'm not going to change but maybe play better without the puck, or forecheck more, but I love playing with the puck. I really don't like skating all the time, and forechecking, and hitting somebody every shift. I don't think it's my game."
Rumors have been circulating about the coaching staff's frustration with their exuberant, young forward. Whether this is an instance of working through growing pains remains to be seen. Speculation is already starting to bubble in Russia, as the head coach of his former team, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the Kontinental Hockey League, stated that he thinks Yakupov would be open to joining the KHL.
While that scenario seems unlikely at this time, there's no question that this situation has the potential to boil over if Yakupov and the organization can't get onto the same page. Eakins told Yakupov that he has four wingers ahead of him on the team's depth chart and that it's on him to prove he deserves more time than them. It's believed that Yakupov might be a healthy scratch again when the Oilers play the Washington Capitals on Monday night.
His next chance to crack the lineup would come against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Update: The Oilers have announced that Yakupov will be a healthy scratch on Monday night.
Yakupov will not play tonight. "I really liked our group of forwards last game. We'll stick with the same group." @dallaseakins— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 14, 2013