If you're pairing things up at breakfast, you put bacon with eggs. If you're drawing up combinations at the bar, rum goes with Coke. If you're making a mob movie, De Niro lines up with Pesci. And at the Edmonton Oilers training camp, Ales Hemsky skates with Nail Yakupov. Of all the line combinations head coach Ralph Krueger bounced around in his head in the last eight months, that might have been the easiest fit. Put the pure passer with the pure shooter. Put somebody who loves to move around the zone and feather the puck to an open man with somebody who likes to get open and unleash a shot that brings back visions of Jari Kurri. "Hemmer is a setter and Nail has one of the best one-timers that I've ever seen from a young player, and a really hard wrist shot, to boot," Krueger said after watching the pair skate together on Monday. "Ales with his movement is excellent at finding players like that. And Sam (Gagner) can augment both of them." Krueger already saw the early seeds of chemistry beginning to germinate. "You could see even today. It's the first time they ever skated together and the give- and-goes, the context that they have with the puck already between the two of them was quite exciting to see. "We know that Ales with his speed, in a healthy state, can really create a lot and Nail is great at finding holes, so it's an exciting duo." Hemsky loves the dynamic. "He's a fast player, typical Russian player," said Hemsky. "He's really quick, has a quick release. His shot is great, like a lot of top Russian players have great shots. They can score from a lot of different spots. "If he can find the open space he can score a lot of goals. That's how I see him." It's a welcome scouting report for a guy who's been looking for a shoot-first linemate for about 10 years, "It's not about me," laughed Hemsky. "But we can use that. Top players like that don't grow on trees. It should be fun."
Edmonton Oilers projected second line pairs pure passer Ales Hemsky and pure shooter Nail Yakupov
Edmonton Sun | Jan 15