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Oilers Nail it!

Nail Yakupov signs autographs on his way to the NHL draft at the Consol Energy Center in...

Nail Yakupov signs autographs on his way to the NHL draft at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., June 22, 2012. (JUSTON K. ALLER/Getty Images/AFP)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:46 AM ET

EDMONTON - It was too late to fly in a couple hundred fans from Edmonton to Pittsburgh to chant “Doan! Doan! Doan” as a last-minute reminder of what happened the last time the Oilers out-thought themselves at the NHL Entry Draft.

That was at the 1995 draft at Rexall Place, when a capacity crowd chanted for the Oilers to select Shane Doan from Halkirk.

It is NHL draft legend now, how then GM Glen Sather went to the microphone and selected Steve Kelly.

All day yesterday, right up to the moment Steve Tambellini went up to the microphone and said “… from the Sarnia Sting, Nail Yakupov!” Edmonton was a worried town with a lot of worried fans singing a worried song.

After a full day of hearing several so-called NHL insiders reporting that the Oilers were going to take a pass on the player who was judged by virtually every credible scouting group and survey to be far and away the best player available in the draft to pick Ryan Murray, Edmonton was a city with the heebie jeebies.

With a chance to put the Glenn Anderson-like Yakupov together with the Jari Kurri-like Jordan Eberle, the Mark Messier-like Taylor Hall and the Wayne Gretzky-like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it was like ‘Oh no!’ and ‘Say it isn’t so!’

There were also so-called insider reports of the Oilers moving down to take Oil Kings’ Griffin Reinhart, who went No. 4 overall, so it was an emotional wringer the fans went through on that one as well.

When Tambellini stepped to the microphone and said “Yakupov” you could almost hear an audible “whew!” as the Oilers picked the player that virtually every poll showed Edmonton fans wanted by about an 80%-90% margin.

The only thing wrong with the moment was Tambellini’s body language and lack of the same enthusiasm of the previous two years when he made the pick.

Whether the Oilers had any last-minute jitters or cold feet before bringing the Russian to the altar, who knows?

But now that the Oilers picked the young talent the fans wanted them to pick, maybe they did everybody a favour by giving them the excruciating day to appreciate the pick when it was made.

Yakupov, too.

Indeed, when the TV cameras were on him throughout the evening you could see the relief, the emotion and excitement. This looked very much like a kid who was very much was thrilled to be No. 1 with his future among the young talent being assembled in Edmonton.

From the fans’ point of view, there can now be nothing but excitement going forward and the feeling that it was worth watching 30th-, 30th- and 29th-place teams the last three years.

The Oilers not only have picked the concensus best player available each year, but they’ve now picked a left winger, centre and right winger first in the draft.

How many teams in hockey history have been able to pick an entire line, if they so choose, with No. 1 picks in the draft? And with the way Eberle is turning out, it feels like four No. 1s.

With Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi and the other offensive talent they’ve gathered, the Oilers also have no choice now but to go against the kill-the-game grain and become an offensive team for the future.

It’s now built in that some sort of modern-day version of Oilers Hockey is coming to a new downtown arena near you real soon.

In there somewhere, obviously, are extra assets for the Oilers to use sooner than later to add parts to make them a more complete hockey club.

And you have to wonder if by selecting Yakupov to go with other No. 1 picks, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, along with No. 1-like Eberle, if this puts Edmonton over the top when it comes to the Justin Schultz Sweepstakes.

The NHL-ready Wisconsin defenceman from British Columbia, who is restricted to a two-year deal for specified money, is going to have to think hard about joining a team like the Oilers, with that type of talent to move the puck up to.

And wouldn’t that put the town over the top?

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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