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There is, apparently, a fate worse than being drafted by Edmonton. It’s not having anywhere to play after that first horrible thing happens to you.
Poor Nail Yakupov. Locked out of the NHL, and not yet a pro. As such, he can only play for the junior team that currently holds his rights, the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. I don’t know why. He doesn’t either. Yeah, a contract exists with Sarnia, but that shouldn’t, you’d think, preclude him from signing with the team for which he wants to play this season, the KHL’s Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, the name of which I had to copy and paste because holy hell.
Anyway, Yakupov signed with (that KHL team) when it became apparent he would not have a job in the NHL. Seems fair enough. Other guys are doing it too. Except now Sarnia is kicking up a stink about it, because he’d really help them win a lot of hockey games. In furtherance of that argument, other highly-rated players in the CHL who have not yet played in the NHL are staying with their major junior clubs.
Except it’s Hockey Canada that’s actually interceding here. They don’t want Yakupov going back to his native country to play in its domestic pro league because, which again, is fair. Sarnia holds his rights.
Yakupov is too good for the OHL. Simple fact. In 107 career games there, he has 80 goals, 90 assists, and 170 points. As a 19-year-old, after a summer of working out with There is no reason whatsoever for him to go back there. From a developmental standpoint, he would do far better to head to the KHL, and play against grown-ass men. This is especially true given the number of NHLers who have flooded the league and generally improved its quality as a result.
Not that Hockey Canada, or the Russian federation, or the IIHF for that matter, have ever let what’s best for a player, any player, get in the way of their absurd posturing. Plus, lost in most of this is that Yakupov already played two games for (the KHL team in question). Do Sarnia and Hockey Canada think they’re going to get him back, even with an IIHF ruling?
“Suddenly it came to our attention that he was playing,” said CHL president David Branch, who has a habit of not exactly being forthcoming.
Suddenly? Really? His signing in Russia was reported on Sept. 19. His first game there was the 22nd. The news of the CHL complaint didn’t come out until the 26th. This didn’t exactly unfold at a rapid pace. I bet this has nothing whatsoever to do with Sarnia going 0-1-1 in its first two games of the season, which by the way very coincidentally took place on Sept. 21 and 23.
But that’s the problem with all of this. It’s just another pissing match between hockey superpowers. The Russian federation holds a lot of sway in the IIHF, as does Hockey Canada, and caught in the middle of all of it is Nail Yakupov, who likely just wants to actually go play hockey.
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