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Burke: Yakupov's draft interview worst 'I've ever had in my life'

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Brian Burke saw red flags in Nail Yakupov that the Edmonton Oilers didn't.

The 2012 draft was more wide-open than most, as there was no consensus top couple of players. Burke, who was serving as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager, held the fifth overall pick. The club selected defenseman Morgan Rielly, whom it had No. 1 on its draft board.

While discussing how the draft unfolded, Burke made it clear that he wasn't going to take Yakupov, even if the Russian winger fell into his lap.

"We weren't going to take him. His draft interview was the worst interview I've ever had in my life. Terrible," Burke said on Monday's episode of the "Spittin' Chiclets" podcast.

When asked why the interview went so poorly, Burke did not hold back.

"He was defiant, obnoxious, and sullen," he continued. "John Lilley, one of our scouts ... almost fought him in the interview, so it was not a good interview."

Yakupov went No. 1 to the Oilers and ultimately became a bust. He enjoyed a solid rookie year, tallying a career-high 17 goals and 31 points in the lockout-shortened 48-game campaign, but his performances steadily declined. He was traded in 2016 and out of the league in 2018.

Here's how the 2012 draft's top five played out:

Pick Player Team GP PTS
1 F Nail Yakupov EDM 350 136
2 D Ryan Murray CLB 347 110
3 F Alex Galchenyuk MTL 549 320
4 D Griffin Reinhart NYI 37 2
5 D Morgan Rielly TOR 517 270

Rielly only played 23 games in his draft year due to injury. Burke said he never saw Rielly play live but "tripled up" the scouts for his games and watched every shift on video twice.

The decision was ultimately one of Burke's best during his Toronto tenure. Rielly has blossomed into a star blue-liner, finishing inside the top five in Norris Trophy voting last year after a career-high 72-point season.

Burke also discussed some of the best draft interviews that he encountered during his days as a GM and gave some high praise to Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.

"He finished his interview and we wanted to have him sit down, help us talk to the other kids," Burke said. "I think he'll be a general manager in the league. I really do. I really respect him."

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