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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

      • Clyde Frog

        “the stories of how much they were bashing Yakupov is greatly exaggerated.”

        No one exaggerated as much as St@uffer. He said Yakupov could fall to #5.

        • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.