Hemsky likes what he sees in Yakupov
Oilers put playmaker, sniper together with Sam Gagner
EDMONTON -- Head coach Ralph Krueger said there really wasn't a lot of deliberation that went into the pairing of Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov -- the duo flanking Sam Gagner when the Edmonton Oilers auditioned their potential opening day lines.
What he saw on the ice on Monday only confirmed his decision to put the two together.
"Hemmer's really a setter and Nail has one of the best one-timers I've seen from a young player, ever, and a really hard wrist shot to boot," Krueger said. "Sam can augment both of them but ... we know Ales, with his speed, in a healthy state, can really create a lot and Nail is great at finding holes. That's an exciting duo right there."
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle formed another of the offensive trios at Rexall Place on Monday, while Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Teemu Hartikainen skated on a line, followed by Ben Eager, Eric Belanger and Darcy Hordichuk.
"He's really quick. He's got a quick release. His shot is great -- like a lot of top Russian players, they have great shots and score from a lot of different spots. That's how I see him," Hemsky said of Yakupov.
The veteran, who has always had a penchant to pass, was duly impressed with his first look at Yakupov, the sharpshooting rookie. He'd also talked to a fellow countryman from the Czech Republic who played with Yakupov in Russia and the feedback was intriguing.
"We can use that. Top players like that don't grow on trees," Hemsky said. "It will hopefully improve our game, too."
Yakupov was switched to the left wing, which is a position he played in the Kontintental Hockey League during the lockout.
"They're great guys, great players, but I was terrible today. My hands were pretty bad at the start of practice," Yakupov said. "I have to get better, keep working. I was nervous. It happens with everybody. Tomorrow it will be different."
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