The NHL lockout and the KHL’s availability online have allowed Oiler fans to follow Nail Yakupov closely this season. For his part, Yakupov has done everything in his power, has been unrelenting, has been fighting tooth and nail, to prove to everyone he is as advertised. The early results are very strong.
PREACH THE GOOD NEWS!
Last month, we discussed the last lockout, and the Russian Super League’s 18-year olds who played in 2004-05. The list is short but impressive, and young Nail Yakupov looks like he belongs:
- Nail Yakupov (18) 13, 10-4-14 1.08
- 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
Before we talk about what this means, lets talk about what it doesn’t mean. I am in no way suggesting our man Nail is superior to Ovechkin and Malkin; this is a comparison across many seasons and we don’t have the TOI for the 04-05 kids (Yak is playing 15:27 a night–he’s not getting a time-on-ice push here).
It does tell us that this young man is special. You can’t score 10 goals in your first baker’s dozen against a strong league unless you’re touched by God. He has 3 PP goals, 7 at evens–so he’s not padding his stats. Yakupov has 57 shots in those 13 games, suggesting that he might have 200 SOG in a full KHL season. That’s a very good number.
I SENSE A “BUT”
Yakupov is a teenager, and his -3 tells us there are things to work on (there are 6 forwards on his team with worse plus minus numbers, 12 with a better total). That’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be overly concerned at this point–Yakupov should be facing the soft parade when he arrives in the NHL.
WHEN CAN WE SEE HIM?
This week, as a matter of fact. Yakupov will be taking part in the Canada-Russia Subway Series starting Monday against a team of QMJHL All-Stars. The series ends in the west, with games in Vancouver November 14 and Victoria November 15. All games are on Sportsnet and are available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of the next two weeks.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Nail Yakupov, like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before him, is a special talent. Everything we’ve seen since the draft suggests this to be true. I don’t know when these kids will get together as Oilers, but when they do it is going to be something else.