Will Nail Yakupov’s Reckless Style Lead To Injury In The NHL?

Jonathan Willis
April 20 2012 09:06AM

The Edmonton Oilers are familiar with the pros and cons of drafting a star all-ahead-full style winger with the first overall pick. A fear that Taylor Hall’s aggressive playing style could lead to injury was one of the primary negatives to choosing him first overall over Tyler Seguin at the 2010 Draft. Two years into his professional career, that talented winger has already suffered concussion and shoulder problems – the latter stemming all the way back to his time in junior.

Is the same concern valid for Nail Yakupov?

Yakupov’s coming off a disappointing playoffs with the Sarnia Sting, who were eliminated in six games. He did tie for the team lead with five points, but four of them (one goal, three assists) came with the man advantage. That left Yakupov with just a single even-strength goal in the series, as well as with a team-worst minus-7 rating.

According to independent scouting service Red Line Report, that’s not the worst of it. Yakupov “was not his normally feisty and aggressive self anywhere on the ice” and they report the speculation that Yakupov was still suffering the effects of this hit suffered late in the regular season:

From Red Line:

The play in which he was injured also raises some concerns, as Yakupov left himself completely vulnerable coming across the middle of the offensive zone while looking down to reach for a loose puck. He’s not the biggest guy around as it is, and while his aggressive and fearless playing style has won him many admirers (ourselves included), it also puts him into difficult positions.

Yakupov hasn’t been shy about playing the body over his OHL career; Red Line describes him as “aggressive and fearless” and that’s in keeping with the consensus view of the player.

The last time around, the Oilers chose Taylor Hall despite his style of play. He was a safer pick than Tyler Seguin; he’d had a highly decorated junior career and was a more established talent. Edmonton got a fantastic player out of the deal, but they also got one who has missed on average 19 games per year over his first two NHL seasons. Hall’s expected to be healthy in training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery this spring.

Knowing what they know now, would the Oilers make the same choice again? Perhaps, and perhaps not, but this is a very different situation for the team. There is no Tyler Seguin available this year; the consensus view is that Nail Yakupov is the cream of the crop and that there’s then a drop-off to players like Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg.

Red Line suggests that Yakupov’s style may need to shift in the NHL:

With the ever-mounting concerns about concussions and head injuries, perhaps Yakupov will need to be reined in a bit by his eventual NHL coaches for his own good.

The same comments were made about Hall back in 2010. We’ve seen the results, both for good and ill. Will Yakupov follow a similar path?

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Archaeologuy
April 20 2012, 09:56AM
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Just take him. He's the 1st overall pick. Injury prone or not, he's the guy.

Take him and dont look back.

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#2 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
April 20 2012, 09:12AM
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4/20** FIST

** whats that?

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#3 The Soup Fascist
April 20 2012, 09:29AM
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Please give me the fearless guy over the perimeter player. Sure there is a chance the Halls and Yaks of the world are going to get slobber-knocked once in awhile, but a team of Alex Tanguays, Alexander Semins and Simon Gagnes are NOT going to get it done. Plus playing "safe" sometimes makes you more vulnerable - see the aforementioned Gagne who is still hurt all the time.

I want the kid willing to go to the tough areas to score, everytime. The reward is worth the risk. To parahrase J.Caesar (a right winger for Roma in the Italian Div. I league), "a coward dies a thousand deaths, the valiant die but once".

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#4 non descript
April 20 2012, 09:58AM
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i know everyone wants to make a big deal out of taylor hall's first couple of injury plagued seasons, but take a look at the career of the player we like to compare him to. mark messier only played two full seasons in a 25 year career, and averaged only 70 games a year. yet nobody talks about that when recalling messiers' career, instead choosing to focus on the fact that he may be the greatest leader ever in pro sports. now i don't care for the fact that taylor hall has missed substantial developmental time in his first two seasons, but hopefully as the oilers grow into a competitive franchise we are able to observe the leadership qualities that were on display in 2010 when he willed his spitfires to the memorial cup, blowing that punk seguin away in the process. if the oil can add another fiery offensive dynamo (who is a little reckless) to the mix, i'm sure the team will deal with the odd injury in order to have what is shaping up to be an incredibly fast, skilled, hard to handle top six. and before you tell me they need size in the top six, blueline help, a functional bottom six and consistent goaltending, i am aware of that. i'll take hall, nugent-hopkins, eberle and yakupov moving ahead any day. and if there any idiot flames fans reading this, you would kill for these guys and you know it.

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#5 Chris
April 20 2012, 10:04AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Just take him. He's the 1st overall pick. Injury prone or not, he's the guy.

Take him and dont look back.

^^ What he said X100

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#7 The Soup Fascist
April 20 2012, 11:06AM
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@rickithebear

A couple of concerns with Tomas Hertl:

- while there are varying reports about his footspeed, the fact his name rhymes with "Turtle" tells me all I need to know

- Missing vowels in the last name is a key indicator. That is why I would never draft Martin Frk or let Kent Hrbek play on my slo-pitch team.

In all seriousness though, please let's not overthink this. Yak is by far the most skilled player available. Draft him.

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#8 Lochenzo
April 20 2012, 11:12AM
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The funny thing is that in the back of my mind, I was think we should take Yakupov for the sole reason of hedging our bet with Taylor Hall. Both have that high tempo, fearless style that invites injury. If one gets hurt, we have the other. Hedging the bet!

I think the foot was off the gas in the final few games of the season. You could argue that it's because the Oilers were out of it, but I think it had to do with Taylor being out of the lineup. His style of play has the potential to lift not only his fans but his teammates as well. Seeing one of your teammates give his all in a shift gets the guys going. We missed that with Taylor hurt.

So let's hope Taylor stops getting hurt, but if he does, we still have Nail.

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#9 Marshall Law
April 20 2012, 09:59AM
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@Shredder

So you'd trade a first overall pick in a year where the top prospect is head and shoulders above the rest of the class for a handful of guys that are far more likely to never pan out? Not sure I like that strategy.

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#10 Clyde Frog
April 20 2012, 10:25AM
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But those trades existed in a world without salary caps, where any team with money could just pay players...

Trading for large salary now and giving up almost no salary carries an even larger value to teams...

When you start working out the value of giving up the best 18 year old in the world AND his guarunteed salary restrictions in our cap world; well I hope most of you can see how ridiculous the return would have to be to gain sufficient return.

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#11 mustang0304
April 20 2012, 10:56AM
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Marshall Law wrote:

I hear what you're saying and it makes sense to explore the various options. However, I'm not convinced this is a draft where you can trade down from Lindros and get a Forsberg. From the sounds of it, it's Nail and then everybody else. There's no need to try to get creative when you hold the top pick. Quebec didn't want to trade Lindros. He forced their hand. They were lucky Forsberg turned out as well as he did. Let's not try to replicate that luck.

This is a very good point you brought up ML. Lindros said before the draft happened, he would never play in Quebec. Kinda like Pronger, forcing his way out of Edmonton, KLowe got very lucky to have Smid and Ebs out of that deal.Looking back six years later we had a good team with Prongs leading the charge right to game seven. Going forward that trade was critical to our future. Take Yakupov unless you get Tavares and switch picks with the Islanders and #89 can go the other way as well.

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#12 Clyde Frog
April 20 2012, 12:10PM
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@ Rickithebear

Hey your back, any new amazing mathmatical calculations to prove how terrible a player RNH is? How he will never produce and is to small to play?

Look at Yakupov's 16-17 year old season, compare it to Hall, Seguin, Eberly and RNH... See a gap in favour of anyone?

Yeah the kid can produce, doesn't shy away from physical contact and is built like a tank. Head and shoulders above the rest.

I can't wait to see what amazing math you come up with to prove that he still won't be able to play.

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#13 The Soup Fascist
April 20 2012, 12:48PM
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@ Clyde the Frog

Great post, but using "gap" and Eberle in the same sentence is just plain mean. That is his look, and who are we to cast stones? If it is good enough for Michael Strahan ....

.... oops just reread. Sorry. Great post.

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#14 Team Hall
April 20 2012, 02:03PM
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There are some erroneous conclusions made in this report. First, Halls injury last year had nothing to do with his style of play. It was an ankle injury, a fluke. Secondly, 2 years is a short sample size.

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#15 Oilers89
April 20 2012, 04:28PM
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OILERSORDEATH wrote:

Pavel Bure 5/10 191 Nial Yakupov 5/10 190

Not so sure size is gonna matter to Yakapov. He's BPA by far, gotta take him.

That is correct. Being 190 at his age when he is only 5'10 is solid. He will fill out to be over 200 pounds no doubt which is perfect, and he will start hurting people who try to hurt him.

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#16 CaptainLander
April 20 2012, 09:17AM
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If he wants to avoid injury in the NHL, I am not sure Edmonton is the place to be. Seems to be some sort of voodoo curse of the city the last few years. Thinking back to the last couple drafts. I love Hall and the Nuge but it is interesting to think about how good a line of Landeskog Seguin Eberle would be?

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#17 Tim in Kelowna
April 20 2012, 09:42AM
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Great read, Jonathan. I think, given how Hall has career has played out so far, this is a real concern. There is a fine line between fearless and reckless. Obviously the 'balls to the wall' approach by Hall is fun to watch and it is one of the things that set him apart from most players. But unless Hall starts keeping his head up I think he is going to have a relatively short career. I'm not worried about him missing 19 games a season, I'm worried about him missing entire seasons.

I am worried about Yakupov for the same reason. Fearless is great, but reckless is bad. For the sake of the Oilers, I hope Hall and Yakupov realize that they are not invinsible.

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#18 Clyde Frog
April 20 2012, 09:43AM
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Were there not just several articles about the intensity of the playoffs and how the Oilers talent will need to develop the will to play that way?

Yakupov got caught making 1 stupid play by someone head hunting him and was injured. Yeah that sucks, but by all accounts most of the other contact he was involved in was initiated by him; I would take that over the Taylor Hall Gumby Blasting that occured throughout his junior career.

I would rather take the best kid who has an engaged attitude and develop with him, than to take someone else and pray they can reach the level he is already at.

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#19 The Soup Fascist
April 20 2012, 09:43AM
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@ CaptainLander

Landeskog is a gem, no doubt. In tough playoff hockey like we have seen this year, Landeskog would definitely be in his element.

I have not seen all of the series, but Seguin has been VERY quiet vs. Washington. While that is obviously a small sample size, if you also consider some of the (granted, minor) off ice stuff, not sure I would take him over Hall. Don't see Hall sleeping in instead of going to a team meeting or being late for many practices.

Time will tell. Need to see RNH and Hall PLAY in a playoff series before we can judge too much.

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#20 Shredder
April 20 2012, 09:46AM
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I think this is an area that puts Nuge to top of class, he's so elusive.

Also, yes Landeskog-Seguin-Eberle would be great, but how good could the team have been if we built down the middle and had Seguin and Nuge as our top 2 centres? Not too shabby, but that being said, Hall is still who'd pick, same with Nuge...Hall-Nuge-Yak is a "#1" line for sure and would put up tons of points...but all lefty's, regardless, possibilities are endless.

Yakupov I'm on the fence with...sure he'll be a game breaker, but I'd probably look for a crazy good trade if I could. Toronot's 5th overall, Luke Schenn, a prospect like Tyler Biggs, and if you could add a 2nd round pick that'd be great (but it's not a deal breaker) for #1 overall...maybe use Omark as a throw in. I'd switch the 2nd round pick and Luke Schenn for Phaneuf...just to constantly remind Calgary what kind of bad deals they've done to get themselves into the mess they're in.

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#21 CaptainLander
April 20 2012, 09:52AM
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@The Soup Fascist

I still take Hall and RNH, and still like the HAll Nuge Ebs line better. I just thought it was an interesting concept. Time will tell but I think what we have will be pretty special one day. I also think Yak will fit in very well, still would like to see him move to the left wing. 2 lines with Hall and Yak pressing the d with speed and aggressive play would be fun to watch.

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#22 vetinari
April 20 2012, 09:53AM
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We need more bulldozers and less smurfs up front, but you can't deny the kid's talented and will have to learn that what worked against junior players may not work against 32 year old, 240 pound defencemen with anger management issues.

I think that you have to accept the risk that Yakupov's style of play brings and look at it this way: if he's smart and learns how to adjust to the NHL, in about two to three years when the Oilers are down 3-2 in the third and on a power play, wouldn't it be great to throw him, Hall, Eberle and the Nug on the ice with a defenceman (Petry? Whitney?) and let them barnstorm the net? That would be entertainment!

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#23 Shredder
April 20 2012, 10:18AM
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@Marshall Law

Yeah, you're probably right...the thought of a top 6 that includes 4 game breakers is pretty enticing.

I guess I'm just trying to put a value on that pick if it's possible...like could we trade Lindros for Forsberg and a bunch of role players? That kind of mentality. It would have to be a steal of a deal for the Oilers to go for it, but a team that kept Lindros, Sundin and Nolan might have been just as dangerous, if not more so, than the actual cup winning Avalanche team...

Taking Yakupov is the most ideal, less risky choice than anything else that might be on the table. I guess we should be prepared for high scoring series like the Pens and Flyers...let's hope the rest of the team is a bit more like Hartikainen.

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#24 The Soup Fascist
April 20 2012, 10:22AM
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@ CaptainLander

I agree a very compelling discussion could be had as to which duo would serve the Oilers better over the next several years. To be honest when Hall got off to the poor start compared to Seguin this year, I was asking the exact same question. But, I don't know Hall just seems to have a hunger that Seguin lacks. And RNH has the "slippery" factor and vision that is not at all common.

But all the BPA stuff aside and as good as Landeskog looks, you kind of knew the Oilers were going to take a centerman over a winger in 2011. That die was cast as soon as the Taylor vs Tyler decision was made.

A big difference this year is Yak appears to be the consensus #1, by a significant margin. Barring a crazy offer (NOT including Luke Schenn, please) the Oilers will take Yakupov.

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#25 Marshall Law
April 20 2012, 10:35AM
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@Shredder

I hear what you're saying and it makes sense to explore the various options. However, I'm not convinced this is a draft where you can trade down from Lindros and get a Forsberg. From the sounds of it, it's Nail and then everybody else. There's no need to try to get creative when you hold the top pick. Quebec didn't want to trade Lindros. He forced their hand. They were lucky Forsberg turned out as well as he did. Let's not try to replicate that luck.

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#26 rickithebear
April 20 2012, 10:45AM
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Scotty Bowman created the Concept of Offesive pairs with a third for protection or Offence dependent on opposition.

we have these 6'1" and smaller 30 Goal scorers already drafted.

XXX-RNH-Eberle Hall-XXX-Rieder

This is 4 5.5M cap hit Contracts.

there are 4 potential 70P players in this draft.

Yakupov 5'11" i85 Grigarenko 6'2" Galchenyk 6'2" Hertl 6'2"

I want the Czech who plays in the corners and is not afraid of front net Contact. The center from Sarnia.

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#27 Reg Dunlop
April 20 2012, 11:33AM
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Mike Halmo is 5-11 190. He destroyed Yak. What will men do to the kid?

Warning, Will Robinson.

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#28 andrewmk20
April 20 2012, 11:47AM
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@CaptainLander

Actually the Oilers came in around the league average for man games lost. The NHL today is so big, fast, and physical that injuries are just a matter of fact. That being said there should be some concern but that shouldn't deter Edmonton from picking Yakupov. Even players that aren't as aggressive and reckless get concussions like Claude Giroux, Kris Letang, Marc Savard, Daniel Sedin, etc. Some of the time it's just the luckiness/unluckiness of being in a certain place in a certain time.

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#29 The Soup Fascist
April 20 2012, 12:00PM
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@Reg Dunlop

Saw a player leave his feet, deliver a blatant elbow to the head and a very game kid get up from it. Should he have cut through the middle with his head down . . NO!

Listen, it is going to be a concern for any player in the league who wants the puck. The only guys who are going to be truly safe are the guys who get rid of the puck way before the opposition gets to them and button hook away from the play. You can have all those types of players you want.

Eric Lindros (6'4" / 240 lbs) and Brett Lindros (6'4" / 220 lbs) were both mountains and it did not stop either brother from having relatively brief and very brief careers, respectively.

I understand your concerns, but every player worth his salt is going to get crushed occasionally. The other reality is, typically the hardest hitters are mid sized guys (Kronwall, Dustin Brown, Tootoo, Ott, Oshie). They develop the technique to hit solid and with speed, rarely found in big men.

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#30 FastOil
April 20 2012, 12:46PM
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I used to believe size was important more than it is. Size is good, but I see a lot of big skilled players in these playoffs doing nothing.

The Oilers have it right in looking for compete and speed. The players getting the job done right now are the guys who are quick and attack the net. The guys who repeatedly get the puck and keep it or do something good with it.

Clean hitting is great, but attacking the net, scoring and having the puck a lot wins games. I just want those guys, and a better than average goalie.

Yakupov seems the best at that this year. And his agent isn't a goof.

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#31 9 Inches Uncut
April 20 2012, 12:56PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Just for the record: I'd draft Yakupov. I just think this is a fair question to raise.

Yeah. Plus Hemsky had the same rap of being a risk of having his head taken off as a prospect. One camp Chimera did take his head off.

I think both Hall and Yak will be smarter about these things as they mature, but you've got to love the courage to go to those places on the ice.

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#32 Rama Lama
April 20 2012, 02:01PM
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Yea it seems we have to take him based on the overwhelming concensus of GM's, Scouts, and the experts.........but if we do not address the "deterrent factor", then we will have hurt little smurfs all season long.

A lot of people have expressed concern over Ben Eager's play as this was supposed to be his role. Given the fact he was hurt, with various injuries, and his very limited playing time, I thought he did pretty good.

Once again given his playing time he was far more productive than Shawn Horcoff, at least from a point production point of view. If we trade him and get rid of Hordy, then who will be the deterrent for the Oilers?

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#33 Team Yakupov
April 20 2012, 02:10PM
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did you know that Tavares has already suffered a serious concussion? Does that make him injury prone now too? Hall will be fine, dont worry about him.

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#34 Dog Train
April 20 2012, 02:38PM
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I go back to something that Tom Renney said about Hall this season. I am paraphrasing but basically he said that he would rather have to tell a player to dial it down than to dial it up. Yakupov is the consensus number 1 and his compete has not been questioned.

Grigorenko on the other hand was been questioned numerous times about his compete level and his consistency. The Forsberg kid seems like too much of a wild card to me. If I am not mistaken, he`s playing at a lower level than Paajarvi was at that age and is putting up similar numbers. Reinhart is an intriguing prospect but again, he seems too passive at this stage of his career. Dumba has tons of talent but he is too scrambly in his own end for my liking.

So that leaves Yakupov and Murray. The only two options that I see are to either take Yakupov or trade down with Columbus to get Murray and a few assets. I don`t see Columbus making that deal.

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#35 OILERSORDEATH
April 20 2012, 03:54PM
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Pavel Bure 5/10 191 Nial Yakupov 5/10 190

Not so sure size is gonna matter to Yakapov. He's BPA by far, gotta take him.

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#36 Spydyr
April 21 2012, 08:30AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Just take him. He's the 1st overall pick. Injury prone or not, he's the guy.

Take him and dont look back.

We don't agree often but this is exactly what should happen.

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#37 Oilcan
April 21 2012, 08:44AM
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Clyde Frog wrote:

@ Rickithebear

Hey your back, any new amazing mathmatical calculations to prove how terrible a player RNH is? How he will never produce and is to small to play?

Look at Yakupov's 16-17 year old season, compare it to Hall, Seguin, Eberly and RNH... See a gap in favour of anyone?

Yeah the kid can produce, doesn't shy away from physical contact and is built like a tank. Head and shoulders above the rest.

I can't wait to see what amazing math you come up with to prove that he still won't be able to play.

Haha too good!

Did rickithebear ever come up with anything after that, I guess he was just hibernating over winter.

And please NEVER list Reider in the same sentence as Hall, RNH, and Ebs and call Reider a 30 goal scorer in the NHL and 5.5 mill cap hit, it would be nice but no.

Old ricky is still recovering from 420 yesterday and can't stop talking nonsense.

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#38 OilFan in NB
April 22 2012, 07:20AM
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Nope, I'll take Hallsy, Ebs & the Nuge, Thanks

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