Nail Yakupov was the #1 overall prospect in 2012′s draft by a wide margin. Despite the lockout, despite his playing halfway around the world, Oiler fans have been able to keep close tabs on their latest #1 overall selection. Why? He keeps doing newsworthy things, like scoring 10 goals in his first 13 KHL games.
SUMMER 2012: Number One
WINTER 2012: Number One
- Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus: “He’s a well above-average skater with plus speed and tremendous agility. He has the ability to push the tempo up the ice and keep defenders on their heels, but he’s probably even more dangerous at a standstill with high-end agility, first step acceleration, and a real slippery aspect to his game. He has such a powerful stride that he can take a handful of strides and already have travelled half the distance of the ice.”
- Ross MacLean, Head scout ISS: “Yakupov is a gifted goal scoring forward, something that really doesn’t seem to come around that often, so when one does he is a hot commodity. His explosive bursts of speed and understanding of scoring principles off the rush is very similar to that of what we saw from Taylor Hall a couple years ago, but also has some people thinking Pavel Bure. He is a dynamic and electrifying player that can bring fans to their feet and is a prime talent for marketing the sport in any locale or market. He is a player that should be able to step into the next level very quickly and continue to progress. Put all that together and you still only have a glimpse of what makes him such a desirable prospect and the number one ranked for us at ISS.”
- Redline Report: “Yakupov is the only true marquee talent in this draft, and his explosive speed and shot give him the highest offensive upside available. He’s not big and might struggle initially to handle the physicality of the NHL over a grueling 82-game season, but he is aggressive and loves to throw the body, and is willing to stand up for himself.”
- Craig Button: “Nail is arguably the best skater in the 2012 draft. It’s a blend of speed, power, quickness and agility that threatens and creates opportunities in the blink of an eye. He goes as fast as is necessary; seemingly just far enough ahead that creates desperation in opponents. His mind quickness and IQ is another weapon in his arsenal and he quickly sizes up opportunities for exploitation. He can play at high speed and his hands keep up and with an accurate shot which creates challenges for goaltenders. Excellent sense and can make plays that make him very challenging to keep in check. He competes and is not a one dimensional player and is not averse to initiating physical play. He found ways to be productive for his team despite being closely checked this past season and without his talented team mate Alex Galchenyuk. A blend of skill and desire with a star quality that should make him exciting to watch in the years ahead.”
- Boxcars: 13, 10-4-14 -3 6pims
- Even strength goals: 7
- Powerplay goals: 3
- Shots on goal: 57
- Igor Larionov (agent): “He’s got more goals than (Alexander) Ovechkin, more goals than (Pavel) Datsyuk, more goals than (Evgeni) Malkin, so that tells you that he’s right there. He’s playing not on the best team in the KHL, in his hometown, but he’s making a big difference helping his team win hockey games and keeping them in the playoff hunt.”
- Ralph Krueger on Yakupov and Justin Schultz (Oilers coach): It’s the 5-on-5 game in the National Hockey League that truly tests young players – to find their way defensively first of all and then to create offensively is quite difficult when you’re new into the league. On the power play their skillset will have a little more time and space and they should be able to add to our power play strength immediately.
I think that’s what we saw in the recent Subway Super Series. Nail Yakupov has so much talent it borders on the ridiculous, but like all young players the positioning side of the game is going to involve a learning cure. Based on observing Nail in the junior series just completed, there’s plenty of work to be done in this area. However, in real terms that’s like complaining that your Pagani Huayra has a blind spot: so the hell what? Quit your bitching and enjoy the ride.
THE CALDER TROPHY
The Edmonton Oilers have won a lot of hardware as a team and individually. However, the club has never had a Calder Memorial Trophy winner–a rookie of the year. If this kid can score 10 in 13 KHL games, I think it’s reasonable to suggest he’ll give the other rookies a run for the Calder when things get going again.
It’ll be interesting to see how coach Ralph Krueger handles the young Russian. As he mentioned above, 5×5 might require a little mentoring. Edmonton doesn’t have Marty Reasoner and Fernando Pisani to serve that role, but they do have Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth. The club may also decide to run a soft parade killer line like Nuge-Yakupov-Eberle and hope that trio can score enough to overcome the push back expected from such a youthful unit.
ONE MORE THING……
Yakupov is the #1 prospect on this list, and I don’t think it is close. A more interesting conversation would be where you rank him among the group of youngsters that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. The answer may be a little clearer now than it was back in the summer, because the current goal-scoring pace for the Russian marches in lock step with his pre-injury totals in the OHL. Outstanding considering the increased degree of difficulty in the higher league:
- pre-injury: 26, 21-32-53 2.04ppg
- post-injury: 16, 10-6-16 1.00ppg
- overall: 42, 31-38-69 1.64ppg
I believe Nail Yakupov may be something very special. I’m reminded of the Stu MacGregor quote: “One of the things that really impressed– whenever he got in all alone on a goaltender, he didn’t miss, he put it in. He has the potential — and I want to say potential — to score 30 goals or even more.”
It won’t be long now until we see him in Edmonton as an Oiler.