Not that there was any chance he’d be returned to junior anyway, but it became official Monday when Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov played his fifth game of the NHL season.
Because of the shortened schedule, rookies burn a year of their contract once they reach the five game mark, which came Monday against the Colorado Avalanche, instead of the usual 10.
So he’s here for the long haul.
“His awareness and willingness to play the game the team needs from him is very high,” said head coach Ralph Krueger. “The goals have been a bonus. We haven’t asked him for that, early. It’s been about finding his spot here. And he brought that maturity with him.”
Krueger knew within a matter of days that Yakupov could more than handle the NHL.
“I thought after training camp and the first couple of games we had given him that message, that you’re part of that journey. He’s on a very good path.”