Nail Yakupov 3, St. Petersburg SKA 2

Jonathan Willis
October 04 2012 10:13AM

On Wedensday, Nail Yakupov and an underpowered Neftekhimik Nizhekamsk team took on a star-studded St. Petersburg roster that includes 13 players with NHL experience (including ex-Oilers Patrick Thoresen, Denis Grebshkov and Alexei Semenov) as well as star prospect Vladimir Tarasenko.

Neftekhimik won 3-2 in the shootout. Nail Yakupov scored both regulation goals, and tallied twice more in the shootout (including scoring the game winner). After the jump, my impression of his first game back in the KHL after an IIHF-enforced suspension.

First, a disclaimer: I only realized an online feed was available in time to watch the very end of the second, start of the third, the overtime and the shootout. So, this is really a scouting report based on a fraction of one game.

With that said, Yakupov was on the ice all the time and he was excellent. He didn’t have a perfect game (more on that in a moment) but he flashed a lot of the same skills that earned him his first overall at the NHL Draft this past summer.

One thing I was impressed with was his calm under pressure in his own zone. Twice in the third period, Neftekhimik got into trouble in their own end with Yakupov on the ice, and both times he made smart plays. In the first instance, he skated the puck out of danger and then passed it to a defenceman with time and space; said defenceman promptly iced the puck. The second time, Yakupov retrieved the puck, skated it to the corner, and took a pretty decent hit to make a pass to a defenceman in the clear. That defenceman promptly iced the puck as well. (At this point, the reader may be seeing a pattern: Neftekhimik’s defence iced the puck four consecutive times before Igor Polygalov finally skated it to center.)

A later play in the defensive zone also turned bad, again not through any fault of Yakupov’s. The Neftekhimik defender retrieved the puck in the right corner and Yakupov went to the boards to give him an outlet as an SKA forechecker barreled in. The defenceman either didn’t see Yakupov or panicked, and threw the puck up the middle, where it was intercepted by the opposition. Yakupov immediately went to the slot to try and put pressure on the shooter, but couldn’t quite get there before a high-end scoring chance ensued (Neftekhimik’s 40-year old goaltender, Maxim Sokolov, made a great save and held his team in the game for much of the third).

Yakupov’s best work may have been on the power play. He was consistently in good position to support the puck carrier and establish an offensive zone cycle; when he got the puck his passes were quick, accurate and intelligent. It stood out on a team that seemed well out of sync on the man advantage. His shot, which might be the most impressive weapon at his disposal, was lethal – he’s a pure finisher, and that contributed to his two goals.

Yakupov also showed strength gaining the opposition zone – on both the power play and at even-strength he moved the puck up ice quickly and avoided danger. I’m not sure he’s quite the puck-rusher that Taylor Hall is, but he didn’t look far from it yesterday.

As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t all good. On one play, Yakupov found himself on the defensive, along with three teammates. The two defencemen were inside their own zone, while Yakupov held the right side of the blue line and his compatriot took the far side. The opposition puck carrier came in along the right side, and Yakupov put in a beer-league level stick check and quickly found himself out of the play as the opposition player effortlessly skated around it.

On another play, Yakupov threw a hit along the right wing boards in his own end of the ice. He was protecting the puck and stepped into an opposition player trying to take it; it was a rather nice shoulder check up until the last second, where Yakupov’s stick came up on the play, clipping the other guy in the face. It was a moment of carelessness that put SKA on the power play in the third period of a tie game, and could have cost Neftekhimik the contest.

In the shootout, Yakupov went with the same basic move on all four of his attempts – a long slow skate in on the goalie, followed by a pinpoint shot. The first two times, he was turned aside by Sergei Bobrovsky, but on his latter two attempts he was able to pick the five hole both times (Incidentally, if you ever find yourself on a breakaway against Sergei Bobrovsky, go five hole – he was excellent otherwise but allowed two of three goals and another shot off the post to go between his legs). The latter shot stood up as the winner.

All in all, it was an awfully impressive showing for the Oilers’ prospect.

Full highlights:

Recently by Jonathan Willis

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#1 Sloppy Joe
October 04 2012, 10:24AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
2
props

Thanks for keeping us up to speed, Willis.

And Fist.

Avatar
#2 Archaeologuy
October 04 2012, 10:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The highlights from that game made me so mad at this stupid lockout.

But Yakupov was a Star in that game. His shot looked incredible and his nose for the net was evident. He looks like one of those guys that the puck just seems to follow.

Avatar
#3 book¡e
October 04 2012, 10:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I hope Yakupov isn't enjoying himself too much over there...

Avatar
#4 freeze
October 04 2012, 10:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Hell of a goal by Tarasenko. SKA seemed to be cherry picking an awful lot. Great to see Yak getting some results by going to the net and following up on rebounds.

Avatar
#5 Toro
October 04 2012, 11:15AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Haha I like how Yakupov reps his team to the crowd and beaks the bench when he scores can't wait to see that against Calgary.

Avatar
#6 Quicksilver ballet
October 04 2012, 11:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

It's unfortunate his first professional goal comes in a non NHL jersey.

Have fun kid, hopefully we'll get to see you next yr.

Avatar
#7 RexLibris
October 04 2012, 11:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Thanks for the breakdown Jonathan. I saw the highlights and he looked pretty good for an 18 year old. Watching the replay of one of his (I think the second one) shootout goals in slow motion and it was as though the tape of he and Bobrovsky were playing at different speeds. He is so quick it is a clear advantage for him in his career to date.

What will be interesting to see is if he can accelerate even more in his read-and-response actions against some of the quicker NHL defencemen and goalies.

He certainly is an exciting and talented player to watch.

BTW, can we trade Khabibulin for Solokov? Just wondering.

Avatar
#8 Pizzy
October 04 2012, 12:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Great Highlights! I can't wait to see thig guy play with the kids! The Russian fans must be going nuts right now...The game looked awesome! Keep the Updates comin!

Avatar
#9 TonyT
October 04 2012, 12:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

How many times can a player shoot in the shootout? Yakupov shot four times?

Avatar
#11 B S
October 04 2012, 12:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Based on the highlights N64 seemed to be in the right place at the right time on both his goals (2nd may have also taken a lucky bounce off a Dman). That bodes better for his chances of being successful in the NHL than even his shot.

And that Tarasenko goal was just sic.

@TonyT: Not just that, he shot twice AFTER missing on the first two, coach either has lots of confidence in him, or absolutely no other offensive weapons.

Next game is tomorrow at 4:00am: http://livetv.ru/en/eventinfo/137626_salavat_yulaev_neftekhimik/

though I doubt this will have a live stream (those seem to be reserved for games involving the bigger clubs like SKA, Metallurg, Dynamo etc.)

Avatar
#12 dawgbone
October 04 2012, 12:39PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
TonyT wrote:

How many times can a player shoot in the shootout? Yakupov shot four times?

They use the international rules, which is after 3 shooters anyone can shoot again.

Similar to Toews at the world juniors a few years ago vs the United States.

Avatar
#13 Walter Sobchak
October 04 2012, 01:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

It really makes me sick not watching how bloody scary Yakupov and Hall would be flying down on defensmen.

I'm so pissed off at the NHL/PA right now I could just beat the s..t out of Fehr & Bettman!!! ......Well, my sister would.....I would just drink a beer and watch the proceeding ass kicking.

Avatar
#14 Dawn
October 04 2012, 02:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Next game is streamed at http://www.laola1.tv/en/int/ice-hockey-live/video/224-2451-.html and http://sfondiastratti.altervista.org/sport-live-streaming/

Watched the first period of the last game. Then fell asleep... I work nights & it was well past my bedtime. Anyone know of a good app to schedule record streaming media on Linux?

Avatar
#15 Reg Dunlop
October 04 2012, 03:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

@Walter Sobchak

I had to give you a manual prop for that, what could be better than cold Kokanee with a side order of Fehr-Bettman snot bubble.

Avatar
#16 westcoastoil
October 04 2012, 03:48PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

~ boy he looks another undersized Oiler forward - I wonder if we can trade him for Osala who was really driving the play on that line ~

Avatar
#17 Walter Sobchak
October 04 2012, 03:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props
Reg Dunlop wrote:

I had to give you a manual prop for that, what could be better than cold Kokanee with a side order of Fehr-Bettman snot bubble.

Thats too funny!! add a little clam to ever other Kokanee, and we have ourselves a night out at the fights, maybe get S. Fehr and Daly to start it off with a bitch slap contest, first one to cry gets kicked in the nuts by a NHL fan.

Avatar
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

What's the Russian version of SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?!

Avatar
#19 Harlie
October 04 2012, 05:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

See Russian Captain.

See Russian Captain with greasy mustache.

See Russian Captain with greasy mustache hit hockey net post.

ROAR!!!!

Avatar
#20 the dude
October 04 2012, 05:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Walter Sobchak wrote:

It really makes me sick not watching how bloody scary Yakupov and Hall would be flying down on defensmen.

I'm so pissed off at the NHL/PA right now I could just beat the s..t out of Fehr & Bettman!!! ......Well, my sister would.....I would just drink a beer and watch the proceeding ass kicking.

Walter, I love you, but sooner or later, you're going to have to face the fact you're a goddamn moron.

Avatar
#21 Walter Sobchak
October 04 2012, 10:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ the dude

Ha,Ha!

That rug really tied the room together, did it not?

Comments are closed for this article.