- © RIA Novosti. Elena Rusko
© RIA Novosti. Elena Rusko
MOSCOW, September 20 (RIA Novosti) – The KHL has registered the contract of NHL’s No. 1 draft pick Nail Yakupov with hometown team Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, the league said Thursday.
The 18-year-old signed a one-year lockout contract with the team, a statement on the KHL website said.
Yakupov joined the Edmonton Oilers as the No. 1 pick in June, but hours before the lockout took effect last week, the Canadian team assigned Yakupov to the Sarnia Sting, where he racked up 170 points in 107 games before being drafted.
Neftekhimik, where Yakupov spent his formative years, handled negotiations with the player’s agent and team earlier this week to reach a lockout deal.
The KHL has put rules in place to prevent lesser-known NHL players moving to the Russia-based league for the lockout period.
Yakupov does not meet the NHL ice time or previous KHL experience requirements, but would qualify by virtue of playing for Russia at the world junior championships in January, when his team lost 1-0 to Sweden in the final.
Yakupov, 18, was one of three Russians to appear in the first round of the draft, the strongest showing by the country since 2001, when forward Ilya Kovalchuk became No. 1 overall pick for the Atlanta Thrashers, forward Alexander Svitov was third, selected by Tampa Bay, and winger Stanislav Chistov was fifth, going to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Neftekhimik is at the top of the KHL’s Eastern Conference after grabbing six victories in seven games.
Locked out players can start playing in the KHL on Thursday, KHL president Alexander Medvedev said.