What Kind of Player Will Nail Yakupov Become?

Jonathan Willis
April 19 2014 06:00AM

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Few questions matter more to the current edition of the Edmonton Oilers than the one regarding Nail Yakupov’s future. Coming off a terrible year, is he a draft bust in the making or is he a player with extraordinary potential who just had things go sideways?

What does history suggest?

To try and answer that question, I looked back at 20-year-old forwards over the lockout era (1994-95 to present) who posted similar scoring numbers to those run up by Yakupov this season. I then further refined the list by shots-per-game to eliminate players who fired the puck much more (e.g. Phil Kessel) or much less (e.g. Henrik Sedin) than Yakupov.

For interest’s sake, I also included other players the same age as Yakupov who had similar results this season, and to make comparison either projected all totals over a full 82-game season.

The Best Case Scenario

Player Season G A PTS Shots SH%
Jamie Benn 2009-10 22 19 41 182 12.1
Marian Hossa 1998-99 21 20 41 169 12.1
Patrick Marleau 1999-00 17 23 40 163 10.6
Mika Zibanejad 2013-14 19 20 39 182 10.5
Daniel Sedin 2000-01 22 15 37 139 15.7
Corey Perry 2005-06 19 18 37 144 13.3
Joffrey Lupul 2003-04 14 23 37 150 9.5
James van Riemsdyk 2009-10 16 21 37 182 8.7
Jarome Iginla 1997-98 15 22 37 180 8.4
Jonathan Huberdeau 2013-14 11 23 34 128 8.3
Alex Frolov 2002-03 15 18 33 146 9.9
Boone Jenner 2013-14 18 15 33 145 12.6
Nail Yakupov 2013-14 14 17 31 159 9.0
Nikita Kucherov 2013-14 14 14 28 161 8.8
Zemgus Girgensons 2013-14 9 16 25 135 7.0

That’s a pretty nice list of players. Benn, Hossa, Marleau, Sedin, Perry and Iginla highlight an impressive group of forwards who were able to recover from a less-than-impressive 20-year-old campaign.

Yakupov is toward the bottom of the list, but it’s worth noting his shooting percentage – at 9.0 percent one of the worst totals among these forwards. I think we can safely call Yakupov a high-end shooter based simply on watching the games; if we were to credit him with (for example) Perry’s shooting percentage he would have scored at a 21-goal pace and be sitting near the top of this list.

It isn’t unrealistic to think he could develop into a brilliant offensive player, given some of the names on this list.

The Worst Case Scenario

Player Season G A PTS Shots SH%
Peter Mueller 2008-09 15 26 41 157 9.4
Mika Zibanejad 2013-14 19 20 39 182 10.5
Sergei Krivokrasov 1994-95 24 14 38 144 16.7
Todd Harvey 1995-96 11 24 35 120 8.9
Jonathan Huberdeau 2013-14 11 23 34 128 8.3
Boone Jenner 2013-14 18 15 33 145 12.6
Mattias Tedenby 2010-11 11 20 31 123 9.2
Nail Yakupov 2013-14 14 17 31 159 9.0
Rostislav Olesz 2005-06 11 18 29 146 7.6
Alexandre Daigle 1995-96 8 20 28 126 6.5
Nikita Kucherov 2013-14 14 14 28 161 8.8
Kris Beech 2001-02 10 16 26 131 7.9
Zemgus Girgensons 2013-14 9 16 25 135 7.0
Brad Isbister 1997-98 11 10 21 143 7.8

Hey, look, it’s Alexandre Daigle! And Kris Beech, who was once traded for Jaromir Jagr! Plus, Albany Devils sniper Mattias Tedenby!

It would be unfair to say that Yakupov is tracking like a draft bust; just as with the best case list these names were cherry-picked to provide the worst possible contrast. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say that’s not not tracking like a draft bust.

Gambling

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At one end of the scale, we know that future Hart Trophy winners had 20-year-old seasons in which they scored as poorly as Yakupov. We also know that some of the worst draft busts in history had 20-year-old seasons in which they scored as poorly as Yakupov.

It’s up to the player and the coaches to find a way to arrive at the former rather than the latter outcome, to channel Yakupov’s raw talent into a form where he can be a difference-maker for the team. 

Dallas Eakins 9

In a lot of ways, I think that’s one of the main points history is going to judge Dallas Eakins on – if he loses Yakupov (though to be honest, most of Yakupov’s problems predate Eakins’ arrival), if he can’t find a player in there, it’s going to be a massive blow to the team and an indictment of his abilities as a teachingcoach. On the other hand, if Yakupov emerges as a major asset for the Oilers, that will say something significant, too.

At this point it could go either way.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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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.
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#101 TigerUnderGlass
April 20 2014, 10:30AM
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@Jason Gregor

Never attacked anyone,

You don't have to agree, but don't get melodramatic and proclaim I attacked him.

I have to assume you either don't know what a straw man is or you just saw the word attack and went on the defensive without reading anything else.

You can proclaim him to be great because he unleashes a good onetimer now and again, but that doesn't make it so.

stating he is great now and automatically will be is just setting him up for failure.

Where did I do this? Nobody has done this. You have confused tools with the ability to use them. He can have a great shot without being a great shooter, which is why the pitcher comparison is bang on.

Pitchers are out there with amazing arms who get shelled regularly, just as there are hockey players with great shots who aren't scoring.

Yakupov has a great shot in his toolbox, and you are trying to argue that he doesn't possess that tool because he doesn't score. Guess what, we all know he isn't scoring.

ie. You are apparently writing a piece based entirely on rebutting a position NOBODY has taken.

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#102 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
April 20 2014, 07:25PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

~ Ya! While we’re at it RNH is overrated too, he is nowhere near as complete or consistent at passing like Gretzky – Lemieux – Oates........~

So, how over-hyped is leading your team in goal scoring and shooting percentage your first year?

It would the equivalent of saying Ryan Smyth was over-hyped after his first full year, Smyth went on to have two off years.

TUG is right, it's a straw man argument.

If you think Yak has lived up to expectations based on either skill set or results give your head a shake. He's clearly under performing by anyone's standards...looked lost out there most of this season.

Now we can debate why...coaching, line mates etc....but his shooting skills were over-hyped and his overall play has been under-achieving......why else would we be having this conversation?

The premise of JW's article above is "Coming off a terrible year, is he a draft bust in the making or is he a player with extraordinary potential who just had things go sideways? "

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#103 TigerUnderGlass
April 20 2014, 07:28PM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

If you think Yak has lived up to expectations based on either skill set or results give your head a shake. He's clearly under performing by anyone's standards...looked lost out there most of this season.

Now we can debate why...coaching, line mates etc....but his shooting skills were over-hyped and his overall play has been under-achieving......why else would we be having this conversation?

The premise of JW's article above is "Coming off a terrible year, is he a draft bust in the making or is he a player with extraordinary potential who just had things go sideways? "

There is an enormous difference between "hasn't lived up to expectations" and "he doesn't have a great shot".

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#104 gus1000
April 20 2014, 10:02PM
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Isn't the key to a great one timer a good first pass?? So playing with guys like Gazdic, Jones, Will the thrill Acton, or any other of our bottom 6 really can't help.

He needs to work on his defense for sure, no denying that, but he needs to play with skilled players to set him up. He's a shooter not a passer, so playing with plugs doesn't improve his game. He is not a shut down, 4th line player. Never will be.

I don't care if he is top 6, or we end up being able to build 3 scoring lines, kind of like SJ, but he needs skill with him.

And, food for thought, Taylor Hall scored 80 pts. and was still -15. If Yakupov was playing with better players, he would have more points, thus lowering the +/- number, for those who rely that stat.

Final stat, how about time on ice. He averaged 10th among our forwards, so what quality of line mates did he get with that?

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#105 hagargt
April 20 2014, 11:50PM
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a

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#106 hagargt
April 20 2014, 11:53PM
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b

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#107 hagargt
April 21 2014, 12:09AM
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c

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#108 hagargt
April 21 2014, 12:15AM
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@hagargt

d

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#109 Rdubb
April 21 2014, 08:47AM
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Nail will NEVER be a QUALITY NHL PLAYER until he decides to learn to play away from the puck, & it is that plain and simple!!! It doesn't matter if you score 80G and get 40A yet you're sitting @ a -35, really, by going minus, and by a country mile too, scoring a ton of goals doesn't mean a thing Nail proved to me last season that he isn't nearly as mature as one would like, especially with his speech that went something like "I play the game the way I do, I am offensive, I shot to score, I don't play defensive hockey. my game is good, I don't need to change", or something very similar to that... Hopefully Nail as matured a bit this past season and has been told by his agent, by his folks, family, Oiler players and management that the NHL game is far different than the OHL or the Q & an offensive player MUST play hockey away from the puck and must also learn how to play defense... Instead of looking up to a guy like Ovie (where rumors are abound of his ove out of WAS because of his lack defensive play and lack of willingness to learn), look up to a guy like DET's Datsyuk, the most under rated player in the NHL with the puck, considered to be the most skilled player in the world by many, a great offensive wizard, but also a great defensive player, who plays in all situations and at all times, now that's a guy to look up to and emulate, especially being the same Nationality... Just a thought

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#110 S cottV
April 21 2014, 08:56AM
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Yak is a poor man's Kovalchuk at best and will end up in the KHL.

Oilers should never of drafted him.

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