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?