When we hear about Nail Yakupov’s injury, normally we’re talking about the concussion that put him out of Sarnia’s lineup in March. The 2012 Draft’s top prospect also suffered a knee injury at the World Juniors, and that injury may have given us a warped picture of his true level of offensive ability.
In 26 games prior to suffering that knee injury, Yakupov scored 21 times and added 32 assists, for a total of 53 points – a hair over two points per game. After his return from injury, Yakupov played 17 more regular season games, picking up a total of 16 points.
How much of a difference does that make? The following chart shows every OHL player drafted with a top-three selection during the 2000’s, and the difference is spectacular:
Obviously, pure point totals don’t tell the whole story – as Patrick Kane and the freakishly gifted 2006-07 London Knights prove – but Yakupov’s position on this list is suggestive.
Even including the totals from the post knee-injury period, Yakupov had a highly comparable season to that of Tyler Seguin two years earlier, at least statistically – he’s within a whisper off Seguin’s production both goal-wise and point-wise. He’s also in the middle of a pretty talented cluster of players, from Jason Spezza on down to Rick Nash.
What makes things really interesting is Yakupov’s pre-injury scoring levels. If they aren’t a trick of sample size – a 26-game stretch is less than a third of an NHL season, after all – then those production levels are truly impressive, among the best we’ve seen from any draft-eligible OHL player. While Yakupov doesn’t stand out as the same sort of pure goal-scorer as a Steven Stamkos, there can’t be any complaints about his overall offense (bizarre side point – in two years playing for Sarnia, Stamkos averaged 1.5887 points/game; Yakupov has averaged 1.5888).
And while most fans would be far more open to dealing the first overall draft pick than the three young stars already on the Oilers roster, it’s probably worth noting that Yakupov’s pre-injury scoring numbers were more impressive than the totals posted by Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That doesn’t automatically mean that Yakupov will outscore Hall in the NHL, but it should reinforce the fact that his skill level puts him in the same range as Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
Prior to running the numbers I had known that Yakupov’s second half of the season was slower than his first half, but I hadn’t realized how dramatic a drop-off there was after his knee injury. For me, the realization that Yakupov might even be significantly better than his numbers on the season would make it both an easier decision to draft him first overall and a harder decision to trade the pick away.
This week by Jonathan Willis
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- Big decisions: Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene for Lubomir Visnovsky
- Red Line Report: "We think Edmonton is open to shopping that top pick."
- Should teams build from the net out, like the Kings did with Quick?
- Jon Cooper, the most interesting man in hockey
- Craig MacTavish returns to the Edmonton Oilers
- Should the Oilers pursue Guillaume Latendresse?
- Should the Oilers consider trading for Tim Thomas?
- Blaming the professional scouts