- © RIA Novosti. Alex Kudenko
© RIA Novosti. Alex Kudenko
MOSCOW, December 18 (R-Sport) – NHL draft pick No. 1 Nail Yakupov will be the main star of the Russian national team at the Junior World Championships starting next week.
During the NHL lockout, the Edmonton Oilers forward has returned to Russia to play for his hometown team Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, and has notched up 18 points in 22 games.
“My KHL experience should help me,” Yakupov said. “When you already played with men, you start to play more disciplined. It is no longer children hockey, it helps a lot.”
Yakupov, 19, insisted he was ready to take the leadership role after last year’s captain and top scorer Evgeny Kuznetsov graduated to the seniors.
“Of course, I’m ready for the leading role morally, physically and by all other criteria,” Yakupov said. “I feel great and I’m ready to play my heart out.”
The 37th Junior World Championships will take place from December 26 through January 5 in the Russian city of Ufa.