Zach Who? Meet Yakupov’s Replacement in Edmonton

As you’ve probably read this weekend, the Edmonton Oilers traded former first overall pick Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues for forward Zach Pochiro and a conditional draft pick. This weekend everyone has read about the trials and tribulations of Yakupov, his new home and how it just didn’t work out in Edmonton. That’s all stuff we know. What we don’t know is who the Oilers got in the Yakupov trade.

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The conditional pick starts as a 2017 third-round pick, but if Yakupov scores 15 goals or more for the Blues this season, that pick becomes a 2018 second-round pick. Not bad. The Oilers do get some worth here, and this might just be the real key to the deal. They weren’t going to get a second-round pick out of the Chicago Blackhawks in their rumored deal that fell through last night. There was a great analogy by Matt Henderson (OilersNation, HockeyBuzz); Peter Chiarelli is the NHL equivalent of a drowning man.

He’s grabbing for anything he can just to get a breath. True, but that second-round pick is a helluva lifeboat.

So Who Exactly is Zach Pochiro?

Pochiro, 22, is a St. Louis hometown boy who was drafted 112th (fourth round) in 2013 by the Blues. At 6’1″ 160 pounds, Pochiro is a lanky left wing (or center) two-way power forward that needs to work on his skating. Here’s his talent analysis from

Pochiro continues to grow in the offensive zone but remains a power forward with a solid two-way game.He is still a work in progress at this time and continues to refine his skills and become a more consistent player. His overall skating is a concern and better puck handling skills will give him an added edge in the offensive zone to go along with his solid defensive play.Hockey’s Future

With that said, has had a rather odd development. He was drafted into the USHL in 2011, re-entered the draft the following year and fell from the sixth to the 19th round. He never played in the USHL, he did a year in the NAHL but ended up playing his draft year with the WHL Prince George Cougars. His draft year was nothing to write home about; he scored 39 points in 65 games on a Cougars team that struggled offensively. For the sake of not cataloging every year of his career until now, the nuts and bolts are he was a top three scorer for the team and even wore an “A” at one point.

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Pochiro signed his entry-level deal with the Blues in March 2014, and he’s spent his first two years of pro in the ECHL scoring just 30 points in 61 games. What stands out in this trade is the fact that Edmonton acquired a forward that has just one AHL game to his name as he enters the final year of his ELC.

Where Does Pochiro Fit in the Oilers Organization?

Pochiro will get every opportunity to stick with the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield this season, but he’s a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the year. At this point, he’s a fringe prospect, ala Kale Kessy (remember the guy the Oilers got when they traded Tobias Reider to the Arizona Coyotes?).

Related: Zach Pochiro – Hockey’s Future Profile

The Oilers could call up Pochiro as the year goes on, he’s waiver exempt and counts as $663,333 towards the cap if he stays up — peanuts. He has no arbitration rights this summer either so the Oilers are in the driver’s seat. Don’t expect Pochiro to be here, though; he’ll need some major AHL time.

If you look at the Oilers organizational depth, you’ll really have to scroll down to find Pochiro. In the minors, he’s behind several prospects like Patrick Russell, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira and Taylor Beck. He fits more into the Greg Chase, Kyle Platzer, Mitch Moroz, Jere Sallinen, and Braden Christoffer class of prospects the Oilers will have playing for the Condors this season.

Pochiro Isn’t the Key Piece in the Yakupov Deal

Sure the 22-year-old St. Louis product has some scoring prowess and sandpaper to his game, but he’s a throw-in on this deal. The Blues had to move a body out as they have 48/50 contracts used and taking Yakupov just for a pick would’ve put them that much closer to the maximum number of contracts allowed. The key to this piece isn’t Pochiro; it’s the conditional draft pick.

Before Edmonton fans get up in arms over this trade, remember that the Oilers had little to no value for Yakupov. They moved Justin Schultz at the trade deadline last year to the Pittsburgh Penguins and were lucky the premium was so high for a defenseman that they were able to acquire a third-round pick (Oilers drafted defenseman Filip Berglund 91st overall). Everyone knows they were hard pressed to move Yakupov; an inconsistent top nine scorer with an inflated $2.5 million cap hit. Yakupov, 23, even requested a trade which was publically kiboshed late in the summer that didn’t help matters either.

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We’re looking at a third-round pick that can potentially become a second-round pick if Yakupov scores 15 goals. When you compile the mitigating factors in this deal, as a fan you want Yakupov to succeed because, in the end, it helps the Oilers. Everyone knew they weren’t going to get a big name back and Edmonton has only two picks in the top 90 in this year’s draft. They lost their second-round pick to the Boston Bruins for signing Peter Chiarelli to be their GM, so getting another pick in the top 90 this year helps offset that loss. It’s even more outstanding if Yakupov turns that into two second round picks at the 2018 draft, giving Edmonton three picks in the top sixty that year.

At the end of the day, if I had told you last year that the Oilers would enter the 2016-17 season without Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov, you would’ve laughed. Well, here we are. The Oilers lost two players that at one point were major pieces in their plans. That said, under Chiarelli, the team has added Cam Talbot, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, Griffin Reinhart, Milan Lucic, Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula and Zack Kassian.

Chiarelli has been the center of scrutiny after making some questionable deals with questionable returns, but if you look at his overall body of work he’s made the Oilers a much more competitively balanced team. Call him crazy, call him a mad scientist but the man might have found a way to turn this ship around in Edmonton.