How Much Offense Did Yakupov’s Knee Injury Cost Him?

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.

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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.

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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

  • Clyde Frog

    Also remember his pretty damn amazing rookie season and the first half numbers make complete sense.

    I guess it all comes down to the combine and if they were able to test the knee and ensure its all better.

    If it is that kid is obviously head and shoulders above the others.

  • ubermiguel

    Here’s hoping that next year we can aviod the annual stress of the local media (and the Center of the Universe media) all spinning nonsense stories about how the Oilers will either NOT take the consensus number 1 pick (Taylor-Tyler; Nuge-Larsson; Yak-anything but Yak).

    Seriously, at least the previous two seasons there were some legitimate debates about why we might take the non-consensus selection: Seguin was a center, Larsson was a d-man who had played against men.

    This year there isn’t even a consensus on who the non-consensus alternative to Yakupov even is.

  • ubermiguel

    there should be no joy in being given the opportunity to pick 1st overall 3 yrs in a row. this is also an anomally. doesn’t happen very often. that being said when you get the chance you MUST take the BPA and this is Yakupov (consensus).

    i have little, to no faith in current management (MacT aside) for them to presume they know better. they have yet to prove this ability. MBS aside, the rest haven’t proven squat to me other than they can lose consistently.

    we someone hands you a gift, you take that present and thank jebus (even Homer would take yak, and he’s a moron too) and enjoy the riches. not everyday this happens.

    good piece JW.

  • ubermiguel

    Is it wrong for a hockey prospect analysis to make me gleeful? This team could be unreal in a couple of years…if we can keep our young forwards…and get some defence…and goaltending.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    Any truths to “Oiler Bob” spending a large portion of his show the other day devaluing Yak as a first overall pick, even as an outside the top three pick. Usually when Bob speaks of these things, it’s off a script. Could ST really be able to blow this gift? And why the heck hasn’t he hired a coach? It’s not like there are a tonne of options out there, would have really liked to see Pearn standing back there, but as usual were late to the party.

    • ubermiguel

      Yes, but the stories of how much they were bashing Yakupov is greatly exaggerated.

      Bob and his guests were discussing the fact that this or any other year, it seems there is parity in the field. That Yakupov was the consensus pick, but since a few insiders have noted that not all scouts now think so, it’s possible the Oilers are looking another direction or at least it could be understood why.

        • G Money

          While I’d be shocked, I don’t know that Stauffer is wrong. That’s the crazy part.

          If scouts have really decided that because Yakupov is Russian or that they’ve decided to draft by need or they think he’s still injured, it could actually happen.

          I truly think Columbus wouldn’t take him because they’ve been burnt one too many times by Russians and I think Montreal wants a center. The Islanders would grab him if he shockingly fell that far, but Garth Snow is a nutcase. Who knows what he’d do?

          He wouldn’t go past five though cause Burke would grab him.

  • Pronger's Wife

    I bet if Dithers could postpone making the first overall pick until August, he would. “We’re going through the process…”

    How’s that coach search coming by the way? Last I heard neither Cooper nor Sutter had even been contacted. If they’re not at least considered candidates, things are worse than I thought…

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    Hearing some of the Oiler faithful say that we needed to draft Ryan Murray 1st overall, I was tempted to throw out the question of who was going to be better, Taylor Hall or Nail Yakupov. Hard to compare the two given Hall’s back to back Mem Cup MVP awards. But seeing these numbers, I don’t feel like a loon for even thinking up that question. Yakupov put up these numbers while missing his number 1 centre Galchenyuk all year. The only reason the Oilers should not draft Yakupov 1st overall is if they get a trade offer that makes them an automatic playoff contender, and then some.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    I was snooping around this morning and over at hockeybuzz and yes I know dont believe what you read over there,however the writer claimed that yesterday on Oiler Now Stauffer was ruuning down the Yak only to pump up Murry for first overall.Did anyone else catch yesterdays show?

  • fuzzy muppet

    I thought that was what the combine was for ” health & strenth” and Yak passed with flying colors .Like quit beating a dead horse. I saw an article on Murray re being similar to K.Lowe as a defenceman . I just wanted to remind everyone Kevin was not The first pick overall but was Oilers 1st pick . Huge difference .

  • Where's Your Towel

    The closest I come to uttering a prayer these days is feverishly hoping that the signals coming from the Oilers camp are nothing more than intentional obfuscation.

    Is Stauffer waxing on about Murray to try and scare Scott Howson into doing something stupid, or does it mean ST is going to do something stupid himself?

    Do they keep talking about who’s the better player in 10 years so they can justify leaving the BPA on the table?

    Would you trade Yakupov for a young man who is already a top-pairing d-man? Possibly. Would you trade him for the chance of maybe having the opportunity to perhaps have a top-pairing guy in 3 years? Not a chance.

    I haven’t experienced this combination of terror/hopefulness since I got married.

  • IMO, the only way that Yakupov is not chosen and that Murray is, is that Murray has somehow proved to the Oil already that he has more offensive upside than his season just passed, showed (which was very decent by the way).

    Yet, I think the Oilers will still take Yakupov first, then start making deals for the next choices #2 or #4, or deal with Carolina for #8.

    Montreal at #3 and/or Burke won’t let the #5 be traded or dealt unless they go higher and the Oil wont do that.

    IMO, The Oilers would want one (with a high rated propect)to two outstanding young players plus the pick of the team involved from either Montreal or Toronto (and/or any other team wanting the pick) in order to let their #1 be dealt away.

  • One thing about Yakupov critics: every year, the first overall pick contenders get subjected to scrutiny that other top picks simply don’t get, and sometimes the flaws get magnified. It doesn’t mean the flaws aren’t real – take Hall’s balls-to-the-wall style and the injury risk that comes with it – but lower picks don’t get the same sort of scrutiny.

    That sharp focus crushed Grigorenko’s shot at going first overall (keep in mind in December he was viewed as a ‘1A’ type selection) and it’s only natural that Yakupov’s offense is getting questioned given how he played post-WJC. I suspect it was injury-related, but if you’re a scout who believes it wasn’t then it’s easy to argue that Yakupov’s offensive talent is being oversold.

    • Wasn’t any of this injury concern squashed at the combine? Yakupov’s results were all at or above average.

      Are teams still concerned that he’s hurt? Or are they more worried, he’s lost a step mentally from injury that he may not get back?

      The latter seems quite a stretch.

      • My guess would just be that scouts watching him later in the year were watching a guy who was playing hurt, and whose production suffered for it.

        We just watched Ilya Kovalchuk get hammered on in the Stanley Cup Finals despite the fact that he was playing through a fairly serious back injury. His production and his play post-injury dipped significantly from where it was pre-injury, but people felt comfortable trashing him anyway. Jim Hughson asked ‘If he’s hurt, why is he playing so much.’

        An injured player is in a no-win position – if he waits until he’s completely healthy, he’s criticized, and if he plays hurt there are those who will hold any decline against him. There was a significant decline in Yakupov’s production; I tend to think viewings while he was hurt are influencing the idea that he’s not as dynamic an offensive option as previous first overall picks.

        • I guess what I’m asking, is if you and I can figure this out, why can’t scouts? Scouts who perhaps before the combine might have had some concern, but now can’t put it together that his struggles were injury related and those struggles should be done now shown a clean bill of health.

          I would guess that New Jersey wouldn’t trade Kovalchuk because he was injured, instead expecting him to return to form after he’s healed up.

          Why aren’t the scouts looking at Yakupov in the same light? He’s healthy now, so he should return to form.

          Unless of course his second half of the season where his numbers dipped he was back and completely healthy. If he was 100% and his numbers still dropped, I suppose I could understand some of the reaction.

          • G Money

            I conquer. My thought, is that this is classic over-thinking the draft by everyone.

            There are too many circumstances or times in life where have too large an opportunity to talk ourselves out of doing something. This appears that way to me.

            We had the same discussions with Larrson over RNH and Seguin over Hall. The last time the Oilers probably talked themselves out of the “right play” was drafting Pouliot over Parise and they weren’t the only team.

            Unless there is something that the Oilers know that we don’t or they truly believe they can grab who they want by trading down, I would hope they don’t talk themselves out of the right call.

  • Man oh man
    please don’t let them mess this up. Nail impresses me in his interviews and Impresses me with his stats. He is in elite company. You don’t leave this guy on the board. You draft him and move other pieces.
    People outside of Edmonton see what’s happening here. They will want to come play on the next Dynasty. I really feel that the Oilers are just about there. We are 3 or 4 pieces shy of being a contender, instead of 10 or 11!

    • From the article (bolding added):

      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.

      I’ll wave to you from math class while you work on your reading comprehension in an English course.

  • BurkeTheTurd

    If Oilers trade the #1 pick for player(s) and move down to within the top 5.. then so be it. A calculated move. If the Oilers keep the #1 pick and draft anyone not named Yakupov? Then thats just plain stupid.

  • All I know is if not Yakapov then trade down as long as there is a 25-27ish “D” in the deal with nhl experience even a 3-4 would do (Tyutin) . The problem with the defencemen is any one of 5 of them may end up being the best in another 3 years or so . I would much sooner they take a center if not taking Yakapov. One week and we find out .

  • G Money

    One of the things this table (re)emphasizes is previous work done on this site and others showing how reliable predicting offensive talent is. This list (top 3 OHL) has no duds on it, and a number of legitimate current and future superstars.

    One thing it clearly indicates is that, while we won’t know until it happens, in Yakupov we have a guy who is highly probable to be a legitimate scoring star, with a likely range on the downside of a Nathan Horton (who still put up 57 pts in 65 games) all the way to a Steven Stamkos (whose rookie scoring records at Sarnia were shattered by the Yak).

    Just for fun, for those suggesting the Oil should take Ryan Murray, I built a similar table for defenseman drafted in the 2000s from the WHL (due to small sample size, I increased it to top-10 rather than top-3). Apologies for the formatting:

    Year # Name Team
    2010 10 Dylan McIlrath Moose Jaw
    2009 9 Jared Cowen Spokane
    2008 5 Luke Schenn Kelowna
    2007 4 Thomas Hickey Seattle
    2007 5 Karl Alzner Calgary
    2007 10 Keaton Ellerby Kamloops
    2004 3 Cam Barker Medicine Hat
    2003 8 Braydon Coburn Portland
    2003 9 Dion Phaneuf Red Deer
    2002 3 Jay Bouwmeester Medicine Hat

    While there are some solid players on this list, there are also players like Barker and Ellerby (jury still out on Schenn, Cowen, McIlrath). But it certainly confirms how much riskier – and how much longer the development path is – when drafting defensemen high.

  • TwoSkidoos

    You’re completely correct JW – the scrutiny surrounding the first overall pick is second to none. You have 3 or 4 scouts from each team assessing you, outside sources scouting, central scouting, so you likely have over 100+ “professional” people watching your every move.

    If you fart, they know how much methane was in it. If you sneeze, you have respiratory issues. Yadda yadda.

    He’s a talent, no question. Is he the best in the pool of 2012 draft eligible players? Absolutely. Mentally – he’s as strong as an ox. Look at how this kid handles things – nothing is too serious, he enjoys hockey, he enjoys life and wants to have fun.

    This is the type of player the Oilers need. Someone who can lighten a mood after they’ve been beat 5-0 in their own barn. They’re a young group who needs that – not a Smyth type of player who “doesn’t accept losing” and are all mad and don’t talk.

    Take Yak, you won’t regret it ST.

  • G Money

    In case it’s not clear, I am therefore 100% in the camp of DRAFT YAKUPOV NOW!

    In fact, in the spirit of the recently revived FMNF, I propose a new acronym: DYNF!


  • RexLibris

    @Jonathan Willis and Oilersinsider

    Sorry to butt in here, but I think part of the reason that scouts seem to focus on the injury, while the “you and I” in the statement don’t give it too much weight, is that we don’t have jobs on the line based on this assessment.

    Scouts probably do overthink things on occasion, that is almost a part of their job requirements. Also, if they screw things up badly enough they get fired.

    Or go work for Hockey Canada.

    Either way.

    • G Money

      Good point. When someone “has” to make the right decision, that decision becomes much harder and more subject to over-thinking.

      I would hope that in someone like MacGregor’s case, his track record, experience and history with said player would be enough to outweigh the little devil on his shoulder trying to convince him otherwise.

      When you’re not sure of the right answer, 9 times out of 10, your first answer is usually the correct one.

    • G Money

      I think it’s not just jobs they have on the line, it is the nature of the risk:reward of the scout.

      Perceptually, it is a far far worse thing to draft a player who turns out to be a bust then it does to miss a player who turns out to be great.

      “We win, they lose” – “Hey, look how much smarter we are then everyone else!”

      “We win, they win” – “Hey, we’re all smart!”

      “We lose, they win” – “You’re fired!”

  • G Money

    What’s disappointing is that there aren’t near as many Hemsky rumors. If the Oilers are going to take Yak, and I go back and forth on my opinion for this #1 pick, you’d think they’d deal hemsky to make room on the right side, unless he’s going to play left side…?

    By the way, good article Willis, as it seems Yakupov might be better than his overall stats suggest…and good point about Kovalchuk playing hurt. While I go back and forth on my decision making, I’m starting to think we gotta pick Yak.

  • RexLibris


    I heard some of Stauffer’s interview with Portzline yesterday where the idea of Yakupov falling to 5th was broached. I didn’t take it as a criticism of Yakupov, or a softening up of the fan base in preparation for drafting Murray, but rather that, should the Oilers choose otherwise, the other teams in line might draft the Best Player Available based on team needs/philosophy.

    Yakupov could theoretically fall to 5th if: The Oilers decide to take Galchenyuk or Grigorenko as a center, the Blue Jackets choose to replace Nash with Nash-lite in Forsberg, Montreal takes whichever center is left after Edmonton’s pick, and the Islanders repeat the Devils pick from last year and take the best defenseman with the 4th overall. It is entirely possible, and I think that is what Stauffer and Portzline were getting at, that with this wide a range and with the first overall team having more room to maneuver than most teams picking in that range ever do, the draft could go in any number of different directions.

    Just my take on it.

    Of course if he does fall to 5th then the rest of the league would have to put up with smug Burke and 24/7 TML media coverage of Yakupov’s unveiling in Toronto. TSN producers would probably go into ecstatic fits. Don Cherry might even become a fan. Who knows, maybe spending a season or two in Hogtown would be enough to convince Yakupov to move back to Russia. I probably would and I was born in Canada.

  • G Money

    The data is poor and not even worth writing about. Even Yakupov’s total games played is less than everyone else’s.

    The Oilers are picking Yakupov 1st everyone knows that. These bloggers are grasping for straws looking for things to write about.

    • Well, if the Oilers played games past April we’d have a little more to write about.


      a) Not everybody knows the Oilers are taking Yakupov 1st overall. It’s my belief that they will but until they make a decision this is very much a story. Unless you’re actually Steve Tambellini.

      b) Yakupov’s offense dropping off after suffering a significant injury at the WJC’s seems significant to me.

      c) Yakupov may have played less games, but a decision still needs to be made. The Oilers don’t get to say ‘we’ll take another year to see what this player looks like’ – you make a choice based on the data you have.

      d) If you’re miffed about this sort of content – relevant stuff that informs our knowledge of the likely first overall pick – you’re really going to be mad in the middle of August when we’re analyzing Jordan Eberle’s performance in banking commercials.

      That’s my take. You may disagree, and that’s fine – not only will people disagree with me from time to time, but at least some of the time I’m going to be wrong about things.

      It just seems to me you’re awfully whiny with pretty minimal cause.

  • RexLibris

    @Jonathan Willis

    Just a question, because I’d like to get your opinion on this: if the Oilers drafted Yakupov, might they use Paajarvi and Omark together to try to acquire a pick in the 7th to 10th range, provided one of Reinhart or Reilly is available? Would that be enough to some of the teams picking in that range? Would it even be advisable?

    Thanks for the articles, I’d say keep them coming but that seems like a given.

    • I really don’t think that package would get the job done. Omark’s basically a throw-in at this point, and if Magnus Paajarvi were on the board at say 8th overall would you take him?

      (I say 8th overall because Carolina’s pick looks like the most vulnerable to a straight-up trade.)

  • RexLibris



    MacGregor strikes me as someone who has seen enough and done enough in hockey to know when the decision has been made and to stop thinking about it.

    Prendergast always gave me the impression that he was trying to out-think everyone and really push his analysis beyond what it was actually capable of.

    If MacGregor makes the call the Tambellini says “Murray” on June 22nd, I’ll be ticked off and frankly might have to turn off the rest of the draft. But in the end, he’s the professional, I’m just a hack with a keyboard probably guilty of doing the same thing that I accused Prendergast of doing.

    For the record, my personal preferences would be either Yakupov or Galchenyuk and a trade (Paajarvi + Omark?) for a pick in the 7-10 range for Reinhart or Reilly. Neither plays here next season, but both can eventually become the pieces we are probably missing.

    • Truth

      I’m not sure MPA and Omark get you in the top 7-10 picks. I think to do that you’d have to include a later first round pick (i.e #14 or #15) which you’d have to obtain from somewhere else using second rounder and another prospect.

      The price to get into the top 10 of this draft would be steep.

  • RexLibris

    I too am terrified that the Oilers are hinting at not taking Nail. But upon further reflection, it seems that it’s more the media trumpeting the story of how we might trade the pick, possibly to make a story much like the Tyler or Taylor thing. What sticks out for me from that draft is once Hall was selected TSN (the ones who presumably coined the story name and trumped it up on so many nights) said something to the effect of “Yes Edmonton has selected the only forward of the drat that is able to play in the NHL right away. Meaning they didn’t even consider Seguin NHL ready yet were constantly debating his merit as a number 1?

    I see the same thing going on here. For one thing, Tambellini himself has said a defenseman is a roster need, not an organizational one, meaning unless there was a defenseman available at the draft that could come in and play right away at a high level, the Oilers do not need another defense prospect to develop.

    Add to this Kevin Lowe has said they will not trade away the pick unless their socks are blown off by a deal; moreover, he specifically named Nail as the BPA.

    I like the suggestions from other posts that if we truly want a defenseman at the draft, trade up, not down. We have a 32 overall pick, prospects, and depth players that we could use to trade into the top ten. With so many defense available in the top ten, and little if any consensus as to who is the best one, chances are good we get one of Rienheart, Murray, Dumba, or someone else that will be yet another good prospect in our cupboard.

    For me, the only thing that would make any sense to trade down, is trade our pick and gagner for an exceptional d man, and still draft high enough to take on of the two Russian Centers to replace Gagner. With this, though you have an unproven and younger player, you do get size down the middle, and needed upgrade on defense. Is there a team in the top five that would make this trade? I don’t know, but maybe. The problem seems to be (again from a media prospective) is that Nail is not for some reason a desired pick. TSN has columbus picking Murray, Canadians picking Galechuck, the leafs picking the Swede, and so on. No team (it seems) is in need of a clear cut, bionafied number one scoring winger.

    Has the whole world gone crazy? The Oilers rarely had 2 scoring lines this year, if Hemskey ever gets his head out of his ass (I’m sick of hoping for that) Drafting Nail could potentially give us three threatening lines, or two solid ones. Having a Smyth Horcoff Hemsky vet line as our third pairing (not saying we should just saying we could) is not too shabby to play against top pairings. Thus leaving our top two talent lines up against less difficult competition.

    Bottom line, trade up for defense, daft Yak for the love of god, media should stop saying Oilers need to do anything but use their first overall pick for anything but taking the clear cut BPA.