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May 29, 2017

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Yakupov taken by Oilers with top pick in NHL Draft

PITTSBURGH -- The Edmonton Oilers selected Russian winger Nail Yakupov with the No. 1 pick in Friday's NHL Draft.

The Oilers, picking first overall for the third straight year, opted for the dynamic 18-year-old forward of the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.

Yakupov scored 31 goals in 42 games last season and broke Steven Stamkos' franchise rookie scoring record in 2010-11 when he finished with 49 goals and 101 points.

"There's no pressure now, I'm just excited," he said.

Yakupov is the first Russian-born player to be taken with the top pick since the Washington Capitals grabbed Alex Ovechkin in 2004.

He joins a young core that includes center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the top selection in 2011 and winger Taylor Hall, the first pick in 2010.

The Columbus Blue Jackets tried to address their woeful defense by taking Ryan Murray of the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips with the second pick. He scored nine goals with 22 assists in 46 games last season.

Montreal chose Yakupov's good friend and Sarnia teammate Alex Galchenyuk with the third overall pick. The talented center missed all but two games of the 2011-12 regular season after tearing a knee ligament.

Galchenyuk, born in the United States to Russian parents, is considered a gifted passer. He totaled 31 goals and 52 assists during the 2010-11 season. He already speaks two languages and joked that he had better start picking up French to get by in the bilingual city.

"I have classes starting next week," he said with a laugh.

Washington took center Filip Forsberg with the No. 11 pick. The 17-year-old Forsberg was the youngest player on Team Sweden at the 2012 World Junior championships. Forsberg said he models his game after former NHL star Peter Forsberg, though the two aren't related.

The Buffalo Sabres took center Mikhail Grigorenko, who like Yakupov is from Russia, with the No. 12 selection. He led rookies in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring last season, netting 40 goals and adding 45 assists for the Quebec Remparts.

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