January 20 2013 08:11AM
In a few hours we'll be watching our beloved Hall and Ebs with their Oiler mates against the Godless Canucks and their riot fans. A new addiiton this season to the cluster is young Russian winger Nail Yakupov. Who might end up being the best of the bunch.
If we compare the draft years of Edmonton's #1 overall selections the results favor Hall:
- Taylor Hall 57, 40-66-106 1.86 points-per-game
- Yakupov 42, 31-38-69 1.64 points-per-game
- Nuge 69, 31-75-106 1.54 points-per-game
However, Yakupov had a mid-season knee injury that impacted his performance in a big way.
- pre-injury: 26, 21-32-53 2.04ppg
- post-injury: 16, 10-6-16 1.00ppg
- overall: 42, 31-38-69 1.64ppg
Yakupov's performance in the KHL this season--a man's league and considered the best pro league outside the NHL--suggests that we're talking about an elite level player perhaps on par with Hall in his draft season.
WHAT THE HELL?
More than Hall--who was a big star and a Memorial Cup wizard--and more than Nuge--who was famous too and just down the road--Yakupov has been performing off Broadway (Sarnia) and Off-OFF Broadway (Russia) over the last 18 months. For Oiler fans, tonight will be the first look at the new number 1 as an Oiler since drafting him and math suggests he's going to be exceptional.
It is not certain but it is possible that Nail Yakupov will prove to be the best Edmonton Oiler in this cluster.
During two tournaments with "small sample sizes" Yakupov's play came under scrutiny and question. In the Subway series across the CHL, Yakupov looked good but did not dominate and at the WJ's he was less than expected in many eyes. However, the KHL results (22, 10-8-18) against much stronger competition should be given more weight.
I think Yakupov is going to impact the Oilers in a big way. Maybe not tonight--he's got to be nervous playing in his first NHL game--but over this 48 games schedule and beyond.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
As good as Taylor Hall is already--and make no mistake he's pushing the river and has the look of an elite EVs outscorer as a kid--Yakupov's skills suggest he may end up being his equal or more offensively. Although he is unlikely to get the push Hall received as a rookie (the Oilers are a much better hockey club now) we should expect Hall's rookie season as a reasonable "line in the sand" for Yakupuv at evens.
This kid is special, too.