Nail Yakupov leads all NHL rookies in scoring

For the second consecutive season, an Edmonton Oiler is tied for the rookie scoring lead in the NHL. This time, it’s Nail Yakupov, who scored a hat-trick in Edmonton’s final game to tie Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau with 31 points. Additionally, with 17 goals Yakupov sits alone at the top of the rookie goal-scoring charts.

The NHL’s schedule is almost finished, with Ottawa playing Boston tonight. The Senators’ Cory Conacher has 11 goals and 28 points, so with a four-point night he could move into the scoring lead, but right now the smart money is that Yakupov and Huberdeau will end up co-scoring leaders among rookies.

Yakupov’s Sensational Stretch

As Bob Stauffer points out this morning, Yakupov has been on an unbelievable tear of late, even as the team has (mostly) struggled around him.

Yakupov’s assist rate over both this most recent run and from the beginning of the year is basically unchanged; he posted 0.29 assists per game over his first 34 and 0.29 assists per game over his last 14. What has changed is his shooting – he’s gone from firing 1.4 shots per game to 2.4 shots per game. By eye he’s been a much better player all over the ice during this last stretch, and I think this helps confirm that in that he’s finally starting to generate shots in volume.

Also spiking was shooting percentage; after a 12.5 percent run over his first 34 games, he’s scored 11 times on 33 shots for a 33.3 percent shooting number. He’s now at 21.0 percent on the season, a number which is almost certainly too good to be true. However, the possibility at least should be considered that Yakupov could be a truly elite shooting percentage player (15.0%+) – we don’t have his shooting percentage from junior, but we know he was a better goal-scorer than Taylor Hall and a much better goal-scorer than Jordan Eberle at the same points in their careers. Of all the things that make Nail Yakupov a fantastic prospect, his shot stands out as something that is a high-end NHL weapon in the here and now; it’s just a matter of the rest of his game catching up to it.

Everything has been catching up; it’s a process but his growth as a player is undeniable. Criag MacTavish raved about his development on After Hours last night and particularly highlighted Yakupov’s willingness to put extra work in. That kind of skill married to that kind of work ethic make him a very special player.

Award Possibilities

Yakupov’s strong run over the late season has moved him into the conversation for the Calder Trophy. I think he ultimately finishes as a finalist rather than the winner simply because Jonas Brodin has been such a revelation on the Minnesota blue line. Over a full season, that might be different because the learning curve for Yakupov was steep in the early going and he hasn’t had a lot of time to make up for it, but over a shortened year I think he falls just short.

He should be on the all-rookie team, though. The three forwards on that squad will doubltess come from the group of six with 27+ points: Yakupov, Huberdeau, Conacher, Brendan Galalgher, Brandon Saad and Alex Galchenyuk. The defenders seem obvious – Brodin and Justin Schultz – and while there are three possibles for the goaltender honours Ottawa’s Robin Lehner seems the logical choice.

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  • Impartial Oilers Fan

    I’m not even trying to be controversial here, just asking a legit question.

    How many of Yakupov’s goals were elite skillset goals, as opposed to tap ins (or goals that Ryan Jones is capable of)?

    Does the type/difficulty of the shot matter? Or should an elite shooter be expected for more than being in the right place at the right time to tap it in? ie. Luongo’s error and pass from Paraajvi.

    I understand, and acknowledge he has an elite shot, but I would guess that of his 17 goals, that maybe 6 or 7 were actual shots that a NHL sniper makes.

    I’m sure someone has a montage of the great YakCity’s goals this year, so I’m curious to know how elite they were.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Here’s Duhatschek’s write up from 10-11 on the calder:

    Calder (top rookie): Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) Runners-up: Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)

    Another fine crop of NHL rookies this season. Long-term, the Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor Hall may be the best player to enter the NHL in 2010-11, but his season was cut short by injury. Skinner, meanwhile, made the Hurricanes out of training camp as an 18-year-old and responded by becoming the seventh-youngest player in history to score 30 goals. He is a dynamic finisher, reminiscent a little of the early Mike Bossy, great skating ability, good instincts, confident in his ability with the puck. Couture helped change the culture in San Jose, and by proving he could play in the No. 2 slot, permitted coach Todd McLellan to tinker with his lines, moving Dany Heatley off the Thornton unit, and shifting versatile Joe Pavelski down the charts to centre the third line to replace Manny Malhotra, who they lost in the off-season as a free agent to Vancouver. Couture went from airline commuter last year (shuffling back and forth constantly between the minors) to integral part of the team’s top-six forward group; and will finish second in team goal-scoring behind only Patrick Marleau. Impressive.

    I see a lot of boxcars and narratives about rising to challenges, coaching decisions and injuries…

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/handing-out-the-nhl-hardware/article623996/?page=2

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    JW: No Barons articles on ON? They are tied 1-1 in their series against the Checkers.

    Some interesting stuff going on there. Not only in terms of the series outcomes so far, but also in terms of who is playing and who is not.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If Yakupov doesn’t win the Calder, it just confirms there’s a whole lotta personal bias/discrimination involved.

    That’s my belief, and i’m sticking with it.

    As the season went on Nail got stronger. Hardest working kid on this hockey club the whole season. The first year kid leads the way as far as fitness went, left the vets who should know better in the dust. Nail continued to get better while the rest of the rookies in this leahue tailed off. Hopefully it starts to rub off on the guys who are back next season.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This is one of the most wide-open Calder races I can remember. My gut tells me that Huberdeau or Gallagher will win because of the Eastern bias that exists with the powers who vote for these awards. Oilers games are past their bedtim after all.

    No other rookie captured the imagination of fans the way that Yakupov did this season. A strong case can certainly be made for Brodin to win the Calder but with Yakupov scoring the most goals and tying for most points coupled with the roll that he ended the season on, Yak would get my vote.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Now that the season’s over. Oilersnation should wind the season up here as well. Get Gregor and Brownlee on here to have an no holds barred, airing of the grievances/slap fest for the boardies here, get things off our chest before the summer sets in.

    Bloody Brownlee never nailed even one of his predictions this year, while Gregor must’ve been on some PED’s or something. I’d like to take a poke at that Strudwick dude, work out some frustrations of the past season. Candy ashers, all of ya.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    While I don’t think it’s right, everyone kept talking about Landeskog’s +/- last year in their arguments for Calder on the media. Which is why I disagree that Schultz is assured of an all-rookie team nod. Lots of stuff about good attributes of Muzzin, Wierloch based on +/- metric, but didn’t really watch much of them either. I didn’t know that TOI was an indicator of how good a rookie defenceman is, but Dillon and Brodin are getting tons of credit for this (in spite of the fact that Schultz was similar in TOI and had worse partners than Brodin and Dillon – might I remind you of Nick and Ryan’s play?). Schultz may not get in on pts alone is all I am saying, and I wouldn’t be disappointed as an Oilers fan. I think he’ll be better and ready for an 82 game season next year, as I have seen more than flashes of a burgeoning D-man with a complete skill set.

    Similar people are using the +/- to argue Calder nominations for Saad and Gallagher. I have to admit I didn’t watch much of either, but I hear that Gallagher and Galchenyuk helped stabilize the Canadiens and provided a wealth of secondary and unexpected offense. Saad, maybe I am making an unfair assumption here but given who the other forwards on his team are, were his pts due to better linemates and easier assignments?

    I also think Yak was Calder worthy for the last 1/3 of the season, but I think the voters’ minds were made up earlier and he wasn’t really in the conversation then. It’s hard to change your opinion in a shortened season. I would argue that Yak did better in the often useless +/- stat compared to Huberdeau, and had less TOI/game, with similar linemate quality. DSF’s argument is useless as Huberdeau had 3 pts in a meaningless game as well. So if the argument is for a purely offensive demon, Yak should honestly get the nod over Huberdeau. More all-around game – no shame if it is lost to one of the Canadiens’ double G’s. Yak will be better than all of these players, including Galchenyuk. That’s all that matters.

      • StHenriOilBomb

        Haha. Even the Habs fans and media here in Montreal don’t think Galchenyuk deserves it over Galllagher, Hubs or even Nail.

        What have you seen that they haven’t?

        • DSF

          P/60 5V5

          Galchenyuk – 2.76 (2nd among Habs forwards)

          Gallagher – 2.67 (3rd among Habs forwards)

          Conacher – 2.29 (1st among Senator forwards)

          Zabinejad – 2.16 (2nd among Ottawa forwards)

          Yakupov – 2.05 (3rd among Oiler forwards)

          Huberdeau – 1.45 (5th among Panther forwards)

          It’s close enough that either of the Habs rookies would be a good choice.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Just curious why this stat is so meaningful to you. PP skills don’t count? Special teams are very important in the NHL nowadays.

            What are the stats in 5vs4 P/60?
            Wiercioch 6.34
            J Schultz 5.06
            Huberdeau 4.87
            Yak 4.2
            Zibanejad 3.28
            Conacher 3.21
            Brodin 3.06
            Saad 2.55
            Gallagher 2.37
            Galchenyuk 1.24

            The argument that Yakupov didn’t produce as well 5 vs 5 is a little misleading if you factor in his linemates for much of the year. Also, 5 vs 4 time is earned, and Yak and Schultz clearly earned it, whereas Gallagher and Galchenyuk didn’t. Goals scored on PP still help win games, at least when I last checked.

            Also look at Corsirelative: Gallagher + 16 vs Galchenyuk -5 (latter is similar to Yak). Wiercioch +16, Conacher -0.3.

            Wiercioch looks like he had a fairly impressive season on paper.

            Galchenyuk better P/60 5V5 compared to Gallagher 5 vs 5 overshadowed by clear superiority by Gallagher in other stats.

          • 15w40

            “Just curious why this stat is so meaningful to you.”

            It’s meaningful to the resident cherry picker because he fell off the Tallon band wagon and onto the Bergevin truck.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          That doesn’t surprise me honestly.

          Gallagher was playing up the depth chart for part of the year and definitely covered the “media profile” bet better than Galchenyuk.

          If there was any justice in the world, they’d give it to Galchenyuk if they are going to give it to one of the Habs.

          Gallagher is fun to watch and creates a lot of attention for himself, but Galchenyuk is going to define that team for the next decade.

          I’m starting to think more and more that Saad’s size and CHI profile will give him the edge if Yakupov doesn’t win.

          The shortened season makes this tough because these players would have separated a lot more given another 30 odd games.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    media hype = awards. applaud your own hype machine by handing out trophies to guys you favor because of bias. boring.

    11 points wins a RoY of the year D award now? maybe they should give the Norris to Smid.

  • I was talking to my buddys at the fire hall and one of them made an outstanding observation.

    Both the Hurricanes and Predators might be in a position to swap there picks, both might be looking for imidate help.

    In fact had it not been for the Hurricanes goalies being injuried they may have been a playoff team.

    The Predators are in a similar position, deep at center and might be looking for defensive help or help on the wings.

    What we couldnt agree on was what player the Oilers would move plus the pick?

    For the record I suggested Paajarvi and Gernat or Marincin plus the pick.

    While a few mentioned Hemsky and Petry, which I thought was a huge overpayment , but they made a very interesting point, both Yakupov and from what the orginization has been saying about Klefbom, both are ready to assume big roles on the team.

    Interesting conversation at any rate.

    • StHenriOilBomb

      Kevin Lowe you got that

      “The Oilers have been the worst team in the NHL since the season-long lockout of 2004-05. In the eight seasons since, they’ve only won 255 of 622 games. The organization likely doesn’t want to hear it, but the team’s on-ice performance has been worse than the New York Islanders (259 wins), Columbus Blue Jackets (262), Florida Panthers (266) and Tampa Bay Lightning (278).”

  • The Worrier

    I think they should trade him to save Oilers fans anymore agony. I can see him holding out during bitter contract negotiations in a few years. This will be before the rebuilt Oilers win The Cup.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “Why do you think Yakupov is the best player?

    Because he scored 4 more points with 3 of those coming during the final game of the season against the Chicago Wolves?

    Hardly convincing evidence.”

    Both you and Sammy should learn to read more carefully, I clearly said:

    “You can discount his performance in the last 2 games”

    Read it again.

    Sammy, did you get a chance to read it again as well?

    Now consider that in the 10 games prior to that, where the Oilers went 1-9, that Nail was one of the better performers going 3-3-6 and sitting at minus-1 despite being outscored greatly as a team during that stretch.

    Sorry for being harsh but not reading carefully and spouting off an irrelevant reply is one of my pet-peeves, and both of you did just that.

  • DonEnrico

    The most dynamic, impactful , promising and entertaining of the rookies , Yak should be poised to win the Calder . Will it be good enough to overtake Huberdeau ? Should be , but seems like he needs a clear gap to overtake an Eastern bias (familiarity being the key -especially this shortened year ).

    • 15w40

      That slide and a few of his other cellys will probably cost him a shot at the calder.

      I would say a lot of the hockey purists that are voting will consider that and respond punitively.

      Yak would have had to have done better to be in consideration and blown the doors of the the rest of field to win.

      I fear that a good majority of the voters will feel the need to “put him in his place” and let him know that that type of exuberance is simply not how “good hockey people” conduct themselves.

      Too bad really.