Nail Yakupov cleared to play in KHL

Updated: September 29, 2012, 9:02 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

Nail Yakupov gets to play at home after all.

Hockey Canada announced early Saturday morning in a news release that the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft was now free to play in his native KHL.

Yakupov was suspended earlier this week from playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League while officials ironed out his status.

Hockey Canada's approval makes the International Transfer Card complete for Yakupov.

The Edmonton Oilers' 18-year-old top prospect was forced to sit out after the International Ice Hockey Federation discovered he appeared in two games for the KHL's Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk without first securing an approved international transfer card.

That card had to be issued by Hockey Canada, which was waiting for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League to release him.

"Nail Yakupov has been released to play in the KHL," Hockey Canada said. "Hockey Canada and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation have announced that the OHL has determined that Yakupov had no independent legal advice when, at the age of 17 years old, he signed his contract with Sarnia. His release goes into effect immediately."

Yakupov, who had 170 points with 80 goals and 90 assists for the Sting the past two seasons, was assigned to Sarnia by Edmonton earlier this month.

A source told ESPN.com Thursday that in reality the Oilers would rather have the Russian draft pick play in the KHL against older and better competition than stay in Canadian junior hockey.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang was used in this report.

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