The intriguing thing about the Edmonton Oilers scratching Nail Yakupov is the ripple effect that came from it. In essence, this is a player who has only played in 53 NHL games -- and played well in a majority of those games -- and is considered a top-tier prospect. Despite this, his being scratched became the impetus for speculation ranging from a return to the Kontinental Hockey League to being the centerpiece in a major trade.
The latter scenario has received a considerable amount of play and has resulted in the hiring of a significant amount of armchair GMs. While this fodder might be the product of early season boredom, the sentiment is legitimate and that's because the scenario makes sense. No, it doesn't make sense because a trade involving Yakupov appears imminent, it makes sense because a future trade involving the Oilers and one of their top-level prospects has a high-probability of happening.
The Oilers struggles over the last eight-years have yielded few positive returns with the exception of three consecutive No. 1 overall picks. After taking Jordan Eberle with the No. 22 overall selection in the 2008 draft, Edmonton collected a murderer's row of Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Yakupov (2012) by virtue of their futility. All four players are projected to become top-six forwards, which in and of itself creates the problem of redundancy.
Obviously, there's plenty of room for all four players, each of which brings a particular skill-set to the fold, but when a roster has other areas of need, a decision needs to be made regarding how the assets are managed. Because of this, Yakupov being scratched begins to get the wheels turning in people's minds.
The Oilers have allowed the most goals against in the entire league entering competition on Wednesday night (32). It's no secret that the team is looking to improve their goaltending situation and could use some additions on defense. The team has value in their forward group and could leverage one of their top-picks to collect a sizable return that could significantly improve the team.
The question becomes, which player(s) do the Oilers decide to move.
Eberle has been referenced as the team's captain of the future, as has Hall. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is considered a bona-fide No. 1 centerman who is projected to develop into a superstar. Yakupov led the team in goals in his rookie season and also has the potential of superstar status.
But, Yakupov is also the new kid on the block, and is the new kid on the block who is developing a reputation for not liking to back-check, via the Edmonton Journal:
"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."
Ultimately, the Oilers need to start winning and rumblings are starting to gain momentum because they're not. The club is afforded the luxury of having pieces to improve their team, which will either come from on-ice contributions or front-office dealings. Yakupov is struggling on the ice, so rumors are coming off it. Whether he is the player that gets moved remains to be seen, but he certainly is the easiest one to speculate about.