I’m hearing whispers that some Oiler fans believe the club made a mistake in drafting Nail Yakupov #1 overall. In times like these, it’s important to remind ourselves of what the "experts" said at the time of the draft and about small sample sizes and how silly we can look in drawing short term conclusions.
I’m sure everyone has their own way of evaluating a new talent, but for Oiler fans the third #1 pick in a row should be easy to compare to……THE LAST TWO #1 OVERALL PICKS!
So, let’s do that:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins year 1: 22, 10-14-24 (1.09ppg) +3
- Nail Yakupov year 1: 22, 6-6-12 (.545ppg) -10
- Taylor Hall year 1: 22, 5-6-11 (.500ppg) -6
In his first 22 games, RNH scored 24 points and 10 goals. Since then, he’s scored 9 goals in 59 games, and that gives us a really nice reminder that (say it with me….) we shouldn’t judge players–especially young players–on small sample sizes.
In regard to Nail Yakupov, here’s what we can conclude from his first 22 NHL games: he’s tremendously gifted, has an exceptional release, and is miles from being the player he’ll become. I’m excited about watching him, and am thrilled he’s doing so well, but it’s clear the young man has some development in front of him and perhaps some growing up to do.
No shame in that; show me a 19-year old who is mature and never makes an error of entusiasm and I’ll show you one sad, sad teenager.
TIL THEIR DYING DAY!
Yakupov scored one of the truly famous goals of the entire season against Los Angeles early on. Nail–who was born in Russia–celebrated a huge goal for the Oilers with the kind of youthful joy that makes us all kids just by watching it. If there’s anyone in the adult world who thought Yakupov made that sprint on purpose–or to show up the LAK–they’re crazy. Seriously.
WHERE DOES HE RANK?
Yakupov is 6th in points among rookies, tied for third in goals and ranks 10th in F time-on-ice per game. This is a marathon, not a sprint and Yakupov’s season–although halfway over–promises to put him in prime offensive positions for the Oilers simply because they don’t have a lot of other options who are better.
Nail Yakupov is a skilled player. Among Oiler forwards, he’s already among the 6 best available (he ranks 5th in points among Oiler forwards).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Nail Yakupov is an outstanding talent. Five years from now, maybe we’ll be able to say that someone taken later in the draft turned out better, but it was a strong bet on draft day and it is a strong bet now. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and don’t listen to anyone who talks about "soft Euro’s" or "acting like an idiot" in regard to Yakupov.
He’s a killer. When the tumblers click, this guy is going to kick ass from Boston to Vancouver. And his shot is going to be heard all the way to Kingston.