This morning the subject of Nail Yakupov's ice time, or lack of, came up during Dallas Eakins media availability. Courtesy of Reid Wilkins here is his answer:
My only thought going into the game is to win the hockey game. This is about our team. I know there's a lot of chatter out there about individuals ice time, this is about our team. The team. The team. The team every time. You guys can talk about guys ice times. We've got guys that are improved this year and playing less, we've got guys that are improved and playing more. There are situational things that happen on the ice, you guys can read whatever you want into it. I'm not talking about a guys individual ice time, I'll talk to you about our team.
If you were looking for specifics as to why Yakupov is second last among the Oilers regular forwards in ice time per game you can keep looking, Eakins isn't giving us specifics quite yet. It's possible that he thinks Yakupov is playing better this season (which he is) and based on how the games have progressed he simply hasn't been able to get him off the bench and onto the ice more. If the team had more wins than losses I would be more willing to accept this, but even without the wins it's a somewhat defendable position.
The issue could be as simple as Leon Draisaitl. Saddled with a roster containing exactly two NHL centres Eakins has only so many options available to provide shelter to those who need help. Draisaitl is one player that certainly needs that kind of help. This would keep Yakupov on the bench more when he plays with Draisaitl (he's Yakupov's most common centre this season) and also when the two are apart, like they were in the last game and like they will be tonight.
Whatever the reason though, I think it's in the team's best interest to play him more. I think he's got the potential to make the Oilers a better team. This isn't just about Yakupov for me, it's about the team. The team. The team. The team.