SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Yakupov ready to be rookie at camp

Nail Yakupov was at Rexall Place Tuesday for fitness testing before the start of Oilers prospects...

Nail Yakupov was at Rexall Place Tuesday for fitness testing before the start of Oilers prospects camp. (Perry Mah, QMI Agency)

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

EDMONTON - All hail Nail.

Nail Yakupov, it seems, gets it.

He gets the hockey-is-entertainment part.

So, in his first availability since the Edmonton Oilers made him the 2012 NHL first overall draft pick last Friday, Yakupov tried out his schtick on the media.

Worked pretty good.

Especially the part where he put on a demonstration to make his point that fans come out to see the ‘beauty fakes.’

Wednesday, it’ll be Oilers fans’ first chance to see Yakupov when the team hits the ice at 9:30 a.m. sharp at Sherwood Park’s Millennium Place.

If the debut is half as entertaining as the availability, the fans should be in for a treat.

“When you get drafted in the NHL, it’s the next level,” said Yakupov. “Last time, you’re playing in junior and now you have to start all over as a rookie.

“We’re practising here to show how you can work. Just be nice and be your best in everything … in the hotel, in the gym, on the ice, to the media.”

It’s been a whirlwind several days since draft day and Yakupov is still getting used to his new-found stature.

“The first two days, I couldn’t believe what happened,” said Yakupov, who arrived here Sunday afternoon with the rest of the Oilers draft choices. “For now, it feels amazing. I just say, Nail, you have to work harder if you want to make the team. For now, I want to play my whole career in the NHL because it’s the best league in the world.”

Wednesday is the day when Oilers fans can finally welcome him and that’s when Yakupov started warming up to the subject of understanding his role as an entertainer, paying back the people who pay good money to watch him.

“The next level starts for me when I put the Oilers jersey on,” said Yakupov. “Why not? First, you play for the fans. In the NHL, there’s 20,000 people in the seats watching you.

“The want to see great games, beauty games, a lot of goals, fist fights. Why not come and see our practice? I think it’s great for us. You want to show off beauty fakes.”

Yeah, those beauty fakes. The kind that get posted on google, facebook and twitter.

Speaking of which, Yakupov has become somewhat of a twitter sensation since he first signed on June 13.

Some of the 20,000 twitter followers he’s collected in under two weeks since he’s signed onto the social media as @nail10_1993 will be there when he laces on the skates.

“For now, it’s amazing how many fans are going on,” said Yakupov. “I can’t answer everybody because it’s so tough to answer everybody. The fans want to know about you, about hockey. Some people have crazy questions that I just can’t answer. I’m just having fun.”

At least Yakupov won’t get totally isolated during all the Oilers camps as long as third-round pick Daniil Zharkov is still kicking around.

“When I got that news Zharkov got drafted by Edmonton, it was great,” said Yakupov. “It’s a little bit easier to be with a Russian guy.”

On draft day, Zharkov told the assembled media he wanted to become even better than Yakupov.

“Why not?” said Yakupov. “He has a chance to do it. I want to be better, too. So, we’ll see.”

How that particular competition works out should be entertaining in itself.

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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