Nail Yakupov is a rookie in a very good league, the KHL. So when he’s named rookie of the week, it’s a pretty big deal, right? Nail Yakupov’s first 4 games in the KHL saw him score 3 goals, a healthy clip at any level. How are we to compare Yakupov’s accomplishments in the faraway league to past snipers?
The KHL’s website has the news (wonderful site, easy to navigate, never buggers up, bet the NHL loves the traffic they’re getting) and states about our guy "played in two games, scored three goals and averaged 17 minutes and 53 seconds on the ice." What they don’t say is that the kid had to run the rapids caused by Sarnia, the CHL and the IIHF in order to get the opportunity. This kid really is as good as advertised. Confident, with swagger, but clearly his priority is to play hockey and earn his place in the game.
Andrey Osadchenko has been telling us Yakupov’s story all along and it’s pretty terrific all by its lonesome. However, add the back story to the front line performance and we’re talking about a guy who is emerging as the entire package: great young player, terrific attitude and a child’s passion for the game.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
Yakupov’s ability and charisma aside, what are we to make of this start and how do we compare it to the brilliant teenagers of the past? We can’t compare him to NHL rookie seasons from Hall, Skinner and others because the KHL of today is not at the level of the National Hockey League before it went legal. The KHL of today is however better than last year’s version, so a 20-goal campaign in 2012-13 for Nail isn’t really comparable to last season’s group.
We do have the last lockout year, and that’s what I’ve chosen for comparables. Even at that, the KHL didn’t have many 18-year olds scoring a bunch but here’s a list of those who wowed Moscow in 2004-05:
- Alexander Ovechkin (18) 37, 13-14-27 .730
- Evgeni Malkin (18) 52, 12-20-32 .615
- Viktor Alexandrov (18) 50, 8-10-18 .360
- Enver Lisin (18) 53, 8-4-12 .226
Yakupov’s current totals (4, 3-0-3) would have him at the top of the table, but with only 4GP that’s a ridiculous claim. Suffice to say he’s in good company. One quick item before we move on: Ovechkin and Malkin are listed as 18-years old above as listed by hockeydb. I am aware of the gap in their ages, but the dividing date has them both playing their 18-year old seasons at the same time on hockeydb.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
This kid is like a breath of fresh air, and he’s good! This season is so bass ackwards because of the lockout its easy to pass over a small item like rookie of the week in the KHL. It is early but he’s tracking extremely well. I’m running out of adjectives to describe all these number one picks–maybe we should be more like the Eskimo-Aleut languages who have 50 words for snow.
No matter, it all adds up to another stunning rookie. This time, he gets to play at home. Our loss, but the quality is once again a joy to behold.