Edmonton Oilers were having trouble finding their groove; then, Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov started clicking, and the team won a few games; now, the entire second line is out with injuries (both McDavid and Yakupov, as well as Benoit Pouliot), and of course losses were initially piling up, but they've now won three in a row, with the stellar play of goalie Anders Nilsson at the forefront.
That's not to say Edmonton doesn't want its three talented forwards back, far from it. The Russian right winger had a seven-game point streak in October and had just collected an assist when he suffered an injury during an awkward ''collision'' with an official (where linesman Matt MacPherson actually pulled Yak down as a reflex when he himself was falling, right at the faceoff).
I could foresee him surpassing the 50-point mark for the first time in his NHL career, that's how good he looked at times.
As a life-long Oilers fan, I tell you, I'm as excited about the current crop of forwards as I was in the 1990s, with Yakupov, McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Jordan Eberle leading the way, followed by the likes of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
One or two of them might have to be traded for a stud defenseman (hello, Shea Weber) but, essentially, most of them are there to stay and form the next powerhouse team in the Western Conference.
In an attempt to check off both #10 and #64 off my Oilers Numbers Project, I had sent Yakupov the two cards above on October 26th, 2015, and received both of them back on December 8th, 2015 - 43 days later - signed in (fading) blue sharpie. I keep hearing comments like ''the Oilers are terrible signers'', but I'm extremely satisfied with my returns from the tundra; perhaps if collectors took care of the letters they were sending and/or who they were sending them to, and came off as honest, they would get better returns. Or maybe I'm just lucky.
In any event, here is the one who will now count as #64, from Upper Deck's 2014-15 MVP set (card #59 in the set), showing him wearing the team's current/classic white (now-away) uniform:
Shawn Horcoff had it at the time, and since Horcoff was the team's captain, Yakupov waited a full season later to ask for the number, out of respect. So here he is sporting his favourite number (and that of his childhood idol Pavel Bure), wearing the Oilers' classic/current blue (now-home) uniform, from Upper Deck's 2015-16 MVP set (card #58 in the collection):
''consecutive MVP'' thing with the Calgary Flames' Sean Monahan earlier this season.