#1 PROSPECT (winter 2012): NAIL YAKUPOV

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

Pre-Draft

  • 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.”

2012-13

  • 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.

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23 Responses to "#1 PROSPECT (winter 2012): NAIL YAKUPOV"

  1. DSF says:

    I’m not sure Yakupov will be eligible for the Calder Trophy if the lockout goes on much longer.

    “To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in each of two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.”

  2. gcw_rocks says:

    No mystery to yakupov being number one, but I humbly submit I would have liked to see the list presented from 2o to 1, rather than 1 down to 20. More suspenseful that way, at least for the other 18-19 spots..

  3. jp says:

    Yakupov is certainly going to be a nice player for the Oilers. We’ll see where he slots in among the big 4, but he definitely has a chance to be better than some or all of them.

    DSF,

    The KHL has never been considered a major pro league before for Calder purposes. Ovechkin and Malkin both won the Calder after playing >100 games in the top Russian league. I think “any major pro league” includes only the NHL and WHA, which obviously isn’t relevant any longer.

    Yakupov should have a great shot at the Calder, though if Schultz keeps scoring like he has Yak may not even be the Oilers best bet…

  4. sliderule says:

    In the super series it looked like Yakupov was playing to not get injured.

    Many times he would be in position to battle for the puck then drift away.

    At the development camp he competed for the puck and checked hard.

    Considering how much money he would lose if the NHL startup and he is injured I quess you can understand it.

  5. "Steve Smith" says:

    gcw_rocks,

    Nah – we all knew from the outset who was going to be #1; I’ve got no idea who’s going to be #20…that‘s suspense.

  6. RickDeckard says:

    DSF,

    The NHL would never recognize the KHL as a major league. That would be a massive PR failure. That would also mean that Tarasenko and Kuznetsov aren’t eligible nor Dmitri Orlov last year.

  7. Jonathan Willis says:

    DSF,

    I was under the impression that the KHL didn’t count. Certainly the old RSL never did – see Malkin and Ovechkin.

  8. dessert1111 says:

    DSF:
    I’m not sure Yakupov will be eligible for the Calder Trophy if the lockout goes on much longer.

    “To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in each of two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.”

    That’s an interesting point. Because of the extenuating circumstances (i.e. “lockout”), perhaps the NHL would made an exception in this case? I don’t think it’d be right to dis-include a teenager from the Calder because he had to play professionally overseas while waiting for the NHL to start up.

  9. Gi JQE says:

    DSF:
    I’m not sure Yakupov will be eligible for the Calder Trophy if the lockout goes on much longer.

    “To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in each of two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.”

    Well that would require him to play part of (6 games) a second season in the KHL then? If I am reading that right?

    I am not optimistic with this lockout, but I do believe it will not last longer than the 2012-2013 season… but ya never know I suppose with the pissing match going on.

  10. commonfan14 says:

    DSF,

    Is that a new Calder restriction since Ovechkin won it, or was the old Russian Superleague not considered a “major professional league?”

  11. uni says:

    DSF: I’m not sure Yakupov will be eligible for the Calder Trophy if the lockout goes on much longer.
    “To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in each of two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.”

    I wouldn’t worry about it DSF. The criteria cutoff is 25 games played in the NHL the previous season, or 2 seasons of 6 or more games in a major professional league.

    Now it’s debatable whether or not the NHL considers the KHL a major professional league. Funny how they never seemed to consider the RSL as one, see Malkin, Evgeny and Ovechkin, Alexander. Ditto for the SEL and SM-Liiga as well.

    However, as long as their’s a NHL season this year or next, Yakupov will be eligible for the Calder, unless someone has some other criteria that excludes him.

  12. Clay says:

    DSF:
    I’m not sure Yakupov will be eligible for the Calder Trophy if the lockout goes on much longer.

    “To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in each of two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league.”

    I would take that to mean he would be eligible if there was hockey this year, but not next year.

    In any case, I fully expect the rules will be changed again somehow to deny the Oilers this trophy. ‘Tis par for the course.

  13. edwards_daddy says:

    ‘ a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season ….. In any major professional league’

    Kids who play in Sweden can still qualify. Is the Russian league classed differently? Didn’t Ovechkin win it after the last lock out?

  14. DeadmanWaking says:

    This is OT with respect to the topic of the day, but there’s an excellent article up on Wired this morning placing NHL hockey on the dismal outskirts of a crap-shoot along the skill/luck spectrum.

    Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success

    Unfortunately, though it pains me, I must corroborate his dim assessment of hockey as a game of skill. Let me back up while my head is still attached. I must corroborate his dim assessment of hockey as a game of skill in the post-Bettman NHL. Here’s the problem, in anatomical terms:

    The makers of the series were also presented with the problem of filming around Eden’s real-life pregnancy during the first eleven episodes of season one, without writing it into the storyline.

    Every so often I inoculate myself against ever watching a Michael Bay movie for the remainder of my earthly existence. (Maybe I’ll chill a bit in the afterlife, if only to luxuriate in Ebert’s capsule review of Pearl Harbour: “The Japanese stage a surprise attack on an American love triangle”; this made somewhat more palatable, I suspect, by a heavenly vertex. That’s my favorite movie synopsis ever. )

    My recent aversion booster was a Joel Silver production. Never let it be said the man has pretense. In his own words: “I don’t make art, I make entertainment so I can buy art.” Romeo Must Die is the kind of movie that makes an art collector wealthy enough to buy the kind of Ozark Missouri masterworks you find at a Beverly Hills garage sale held in a garage. It’s that good. I mention this because the ill-fated Aaliyah is basically never filmed below the hips, unless concealed by cargo pants. In First Contact Nichelle Nichols was rarely filmed below the pendant. (Cut her some slack–a lot of slack–she’s just a few years junior to Gordie Howe.)

    The elephant under the skirt here is that NHL has an image problem south of the Mason-Dixie line. Tragically for truth and beauty, this drives league strategy toward entertainment at the expense of actual sport. The NBA has a more consistent appeal within its domain. Different problems, different tactics.

    With each decision Bettman slides the NHL slightly further toward crap-shoot status on regular season outcomes. He won’t rest until the first Cats and Dogs Stanley cup. (Note to league: perhaps naming your aspirational franchises after feral house-pets was not so wise. Was it only geography that saved us from the Columbus Capybara? Columbus came into the league around the same time as M.I.B. They might have become the Columbus Crickets, only they couldn’t procure a Napoleonic six-incher with the right bruit formidable.)

    Not only do we have shoot-outs and loser points, obstruction, not enough goals, goalie pads larger than Escalade airbags (sorry Bruce), and a bad case of borderline personality disorder policing intent to injure (all of which play to the regular season crapshoot), the league changes the rules in the post-season, so that a flashy team with tic-tac precision floating into the second season on a high seed is easily toppled by Johnny-clinched-lately sporting a goatee gruff. Parity. Chance. Karma. Lumber. Myopic zebra. It’s all there in the NHL second-season secret sauce.

    Mauboussin’s suggestion that randomness is due to not having your star players out there for as long as MBA doesn’t entirely hold water. This is the one weakness in his perspective that troubled me. Your top guys are out for the PP, and one goal with the man advantage is a big edge. I don’t believe a hot QB offsets a drastically shorter season. I also suspect they didn’t fully correct for league parity (or lack of it). Once upon a time, the NHL had a 16 year stretch where only four teams won Stanley cups (out of more than six). From 1999-2012 I spy with my sorting eye only two repeats (though the honorary cup awarded to “Cost Certainty” presently has a lock on 2013).

    For the loser now
    Will be later to win
    For the times they, they are a-changin’

    Yeah, and this just in, the wheel is rigged by the Muppet in the Machine. So wrong you are, Bob. The times they are a-being changed.

    There’s more great content in this article I’ll have to leave for another time.

  15. PaperDesigner says:

    So… Is this Nail Yakupov good?

  16. delooper says:

    He might be!

  17. Matt.N says:

    Has anyone done any work on more recent NHL Equivalencies?

    I think the hockey landscape has changed alot since this article came out.

    http://hockeyanalytics.com/Research_files/League_Equivalencies.pdf

  18. OilLeak says:

    So Cam Abney is #2 then?

  19. jp says:

    OilLeak:
    So Cam Abney is #2 then?

    I believe he’s #42 (ish).
    http://www.coppernblue.com/2012/8/11/3233653/top-25-under-25-summer-2012-final-rankings
    Maybe he’s moved up since then though. We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to know for sure :)

  20. OilLeak says:

    jp: I believe he’s #42 (ish).
    http://www.coppernblue.com/2012/8/11/3233653/top-25-under-25-summer-2012-final-rankings
    Maybe he’s moved up since then though. We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to know for sure

    I mean he’s had like what? Three AMAZING games in the ECHL and three equally ASTOUNDING games for OKC this season. He can’t even be considered a viable goon at the ECHL level let alone for plans at the NHL level. Geezus, who made the call to draft this guy?

  21. jp says:

    OilLeak: I mean he’s had like what? Three AMAZING games in the ECHL and three equally ASTOUNDINGgames for OKC this season. He can’t even be considered a viable goon at the ECHL level let alone for plans at the NHL level.Geezus, who made the call to draft this guy?

    Actually, his ECHL line of 3-1-0-1 5PIM and 3SOG kinda looks like he could be a real hockey player… Maybe the recent goal moves him up to the #42 slot on the prospect list…

  22. VOR says:

    Matt N.

    I have no idea if there is more recent research off the top of my head and a cursory check of the online sources suggests the data has been constantly updated but doesn’t give links to the original material. However, in the paper you posted the assertion about 23-26 being the peak scoring years now needs a huge asterix. The list of players whose best years were after 26 or even 30 is very large and growing. I don’t see what that had to do with equivalencies in the first place.

    Many of the players whose peaks come later had lousy first NHL years relative to their AHL level and then went on to peak in the NHL close to or even above (sometimes substantially) the best level of performance they demonstrated in the AHL. So there is probably some change to the distribution of scoring and the relationship between AHL and NHL scoring. Whether the averages have moved and the NHLE need to be adjusted (maybe they have been) is a question I’d like answered as well.

    Maybe more importantly I want to know what the distributions look like and whether they are changing over time. There is certainly some mention of distributions ranging from .18 to .98 in the online literature. So if as a 17 year old in the CHL you scored 1.0 ppg then you might get an NHL career from .18 ppg to .98 ppg which is a rather large variation.

    If the AHL to NHL conversion is .65 and the distribution of the individuals in the sample set lies entirely between .4 to .9 that is one thing. If it is .1 to 1.2 that is quite another.

    Also, when you make the jump from junior to the NHL or from the AHL to the NHL is clearly important and a high draft choices being pushed to make the jump straight to the NHL is going to skew the data set. Not to mention not everybody goes AHL-NHL. More typically it might be NHL a few games – bunch in the AHL – a longer stint in the NHL – more in the AHL – permanently in the NHL. So where is the measurement taking place?

    I’d never really thought about any of that until I read your post but if anybody has a source for the raw data and analysis I’d really appreciate it.

    My work on the draft is making me very aware that the entire profile of the NHL changed profoundly between 1985-1995 and that it appears some of the trends from these years are intensifying right up to this past summer’s draft. Simply put, opportunity is not equally distributed through the years or through the rounds of the draft. Corey Pronman, for example, has speculated on whether there is an understanding in today’s NHL about keeping players in junior longer to prop up the financial model of the CHL, he dismisses and I think he is right. Whatever is causing it the distribution of time from draft to first game in the NHL is changing dramatically. That trend in and of itself would change some of the underlying assumptions about NHLE.

  23. Bruce McCurdy says:

    DeadmanWaking: Not only do we have shoot-outs and loser points, obstruction, not enough goals, goalie pads larger than Escalade airbags (sorry Bruce), and a bad case of borderline personality disorder policing intent to injure (all of which play to the regular season crapshoot), the league changes the rules in the post-season, so that a flashy team with tic-tac precision floating into the second season on a high seed is easily toppled by Johnny-clinched-lately sporting a goatee gruff. Parity. Chance. Karma. Lumber. Myopic zebra. It’s all there in the NHL second-season secret sauce.

    Great rant, DMW, I agree with every point. (well, except the Bettman Point, I disagree with that, but you know what I mean!)

    You needn’t “sorry” me, I’m in the camp that says goalie pads are way too big. All this materials science that has led to lighter cum bigger pads has surely improved the quality of protection afforded to actual body parts without needing to exaggerate their apparent size by 2 or 3X. The gloves are even worse, there’s even a piece called the “cheater” FFS that does exactly what it purports to do. The only thing it protects is the damn net.

    Cut those goalies down to size, I say. Just do it safely.

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