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The incredible story of when Nail Yakupov almost fought Brian Burke and a Leafs scout

Safe to say that Burkey isn’t exactly a Yak fan.

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In case you missed it yesterday, former NHL general manager Brian Burke joined the Spittin’Chiclets podcast to chat with Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette. As you might expect, Burkey put on a Hell of a show and was full of entertaining stories from his days with the Canucks, Ducks, Leafs and Flames.

Perhaps the best story of all though centered around the 2012 NHL Entry Draft when Burkey and the Leafs selected Morgan Rielly 5th overall. As Burkey tells it, he and his staff were concerned that one of the teams in the top our might select Rielly ahead of him. Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray and Alex Galchenyuk all had a fair shot at being selected 1st overall, so Burke was pretty sure that he’d have his choice of one of a number of defensemen including Rielly, Griffin Reinhart, Hampus Lindholm, Matt Dumba, Derrick Pouliot or Jacob Trouba. All along though, Rielly was his preference and he even went so far as to say that he’d have selected Rielly 1st overall. But… why not Yakupov? Most scouts seemed to agree that the Russian speedster was the top player available. So what did Burkey know that the others didn’t?

“We weren’t going to take him. His draft interview was the worst interview I’ve ever conducted in my life. Terrible,” say Burke yesterday.

When pressed on why by Bissonnette, Burke replied, “He was defiant and obnoxious and sullen… so…”

Then Burke dropped a bomb:

“John Lilly, one of our scouts, almost fought him in the interview. So it was not a good interview.”

Priceless. Honestly, how much better of a story would this have been had Yak and Lilly actually dropped the mitts? 

In any case, it’s hard to argue that Burke wasn’t right. Of all the players taken in the 2012 Draft, Rielly is the best. Filip Forsberg and Andrei Vasilevsky are arguably more valuable, but neither player was really considered a top 10 pick at the time. With a top five of Yakupov, Murray, Galchenyuk, Reinhart and Rielly though it’s clear to see that Burke and the Leafs won out. Got 'em, Burkey.