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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  • toprightcorner

    I don’t think Brodin wins, his stats don’t really jump off the page and most eastern voters won’t have seen him on the ice to sway their decision. He is also playing beside one of the best defenceman in the league.

    I actually think Shultz has a chance to win based on offensive totals. plus/minus means nothing because the team your on makes such a huge difference. Dany Heatly was -19 and Alfredsson was -18 when they won the Calder.

    A defenceman only 4 points off the scoring lead is a huge accomplishment and he won defenecemen of the year in the AHL playing less then half a season. That’s defenceman, not rookie.

    Offence seems to rule the roost when it comes to the Calder and Schultz, as a defenceman, stats jump of the page and slap you in the face! Tied for 12th in defenceman scoring.

  • Tony Montana

    Why do people have imaginary arguments with DSF? Is he not providing enough actual contrary commentary for everyone. People need to adopt the “ignore him and maybe he will go away” approach.

  • justDOit

    If Barrett Jackman can win the Calder from partnering with Al MacInnis, then Jonas Brodin can win it from partnering with Ryan Suter. Not sure if the eastern voters have even paid enough attention to notice him though, so that will give Yak and Huberdeau a chance.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I can’t wait for DSF to make the argument that Huberdeau should win the Calder, and then in the same breath, criticize Schultz’s plus/minus (while Huberdeau is -15).

    Oh wait, there’s a rookie D-man in Minny. Nevermind.

    Hey D, would you ever stoop to our level and speak will of Brodin’s compatriot, Klefbom?

    • DSF

      Well since you asked:

      P/60 5V5 (which is the best indicator of a forward’s true value)

      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)

      The envelope please…………….

      Ladies and gentlemen…the rookie forward most deserving of the Calder Trophy is……………Alex Galchenyuk.

      Now, those of you following along at home will remember I told you that the Oilers should have drafted the big centre instead of Yakupov but you had all these bright shiny things distracting you and you all opted to go with the guy who has the best cell.

      Too bad.

      I expect we will see a huge vote split here so the race is really wide open.

      Perhaps Brodin runs up the middle and takes it.

      Brodin, as a rookie, played more than 23 minutes a night on Minnesota’s top pairing against the toughest competition and finished +3 on a team that finished the season with -5 goal differential.

      Despite coming to play on the smaller ice, learning a new language and culture, (remember all those Paajarvi excuses?) suffering a broken collarbone in the AHL and playing far more games that he was used to, he didn’t fold up like a Taiwanese lawn chair near the end of the season.

      Defensemen rarely win the Calder though so I doubt he does.

      If I had a vote…it would be for Galchenyuk.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        “Now, those of you following along at home will remember I told you that the Oilers should have drafted the big centre instead of Yakupov but you had all these bright shiny things distracting you and you all opted to go with the guy who has the best cell.

        Too bad.”

        The Oilers decided to go with the best hockey player, which is Yakupov.

        Nevermind the Calder trophy…your point here doesn’t stand. There is more than ample evidence demonstrating the Yakupov is going to be the next Russian superstar in the NHL. You can discount his performance in the last 2 games, and his skill is still apparent, especially when outperforming most of his team during a 6 game losing skid.

        Hall is sitting 9th in scoring, and Skinner is sitting at 143rd in the NHL. We all know how worthless the Calder has become so I’m not really invested in who wins.

        • DSF

          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.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          “You can discount his performance in the last 2 games, and his skill is still apparent, especially when outperforming most of his team during a 6 game losing skid.”

          Are you kidding me Vancouver quit halfway through the 3rd period. It was not a NHL game

          • Cheap Shot Charlie

            You didn’t read the post right. nrXic said you CAN discount the last two games. That means you don’t consider the last two games. When he said “outperformed most of HIS team” it means Yakupov played better than other Oilers, not the other team. Any comparison to the other team is invalid here.

            Poor argument, poor post!

            But DSF, hilarious for agreeing! Good one buddy!!! Well played scarcasim!!!

            I love you, man! *HUG*

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Remember when DSF said Peter Mueller is better than Yakupov?
        Remember when DSF said we should be following the Panthers rebuild model and that Dale Tallon is showing the Oilers how its done?
        Remember when DSF guaranteed the Jackets make te playoffs after the trade deadline. I believe he exact quote was ‘book it’

        I’m not sure why anyone cares what he says. Flip flopping around with incoherent arguments. The only consistent item is an irrational hatred for the team.

        I feel bad for DSF, he is a poor, bitter, angry lost soul. He needs a hug from OilersNation. Who spends their time in another teams fan forum critiquing every move. It really is sad.

      • DSF

        There it is. You don’t disappoint!

        P/60 5v5 is your best indicator of a forward’s value, but not everyone’s.

        Did you actually imply that Whitney has gotten a bad rap from the Oilers and he will excel on another team? Could you confirm that for me please?

        • DSF

          I assume your only indicator of a forward’s value is that he plays for the Oilers despite them being a dreadful hockey team.

          As for Whitney, he likely did get a bad rap from the Oilers since they are renowned for not communicating well with their players and instead choose to let them twist in the wind…it’s happened over and over again.

          For the record, I was against the trade for Whitney from the very beginning since even a moron should have known he had medical issues and moving an elite (at the time) offensive defenseman for one with HUGE question marks was just dumb.

          So the Oilers have now turned Stoll and Greene into Visnovsky and then turned Visnovsky into Whitney and turned Whitney into NOTHING.

          Any surprise they are such a horrid organization?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Your assumption would be wrong, but you know how the ol’ saying goes…

            For the record you were against Whitney? No. Find the record. Until then it’s you being a monday morning quarterback.

            Every comment you make chips away at your credibility. You flame others for wearing Oilers glasses (which in some cases is very fair), but you are unable/unwilling to give any credit to the organization.

  • justDOit

    Pft. Calder. Yeah right.

    It will be either Huberdeau, because he’s in the east and because he can be sold as ‘the only bright spot on a really bad team this year’ or Brodin because ‘oh wow rookie defenseman is really awesome in a really tough position despite getting paired with a really awesome veteran defenseman… oh and we want someone from the west that isn’t on the Oilers’.

    So, no, there will be no Calder for Yak City sadly.

  • Crispy

    The main thing that annoys me about Whitney is that we are now losing him for nothing when we could have salvaged something for him at the trade deadline. Maybe a second round pick. He should be on a “really good” team right now realizing we’re not the only team that would scratch him.

      • Crispy

        I thought the general feeling was that Tambellini was showing good faith in the team by not trading Whitney, since they were still in the playoff race. It would be interesting to see what any offers might have been… Maybe a second round pick is too high, Douglas Murray got 2 2nds though.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      He was offered up to everyone for anything. No takers. Everyone could see his limitations and his stats. No one was risking a bag of pucks, let alone a second round pick, for a guy that can’t skate. The saddest moment of his career was in his last game against Anaheim where he really looked like a guy off the street who won a “be an Oiler for a day” contest. Twice he fell like a tier 6 peewee, when he tried to turn on his bad ankle. I felt sorry for him then, and I feel sorry for him now. But he’s well spoken enough to land a media career. Dollars to donuts he’s played his last NHL game.

      • DSF

        Yeah, Souray was offered up to everyone too…look how that worked out.

        Just another case of the rest of the league not willing to get involved in the Oilers soap opera.

        And, on it goes.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        And @Justdoit

        yes, there were a lot of different scenarios where I could have moved people for mid-round picks, maybe a little higher in a couple of other circumstances, but that wasn’t my goal coming into this trade deadline. It was to find somehow to not take away from the depth of our dressing room, or the people that we’ve asked to compete so hard to get to this spot, was to show them that we trust this group, that they have a wonderful opportunity to get to the playoffs here.

        Moves were there. A mid-round or higher pick for Whitney would look pretty good to Stu right now I bet.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Considering he’s a UFA and the team had soured on him…

            He’s the likely choice to be shopped… along with Jones, Nik, Fistric and the other UFAs.

            Who do you think he’s talking about?

          • Tony Montana

            Hemsky, Smyth, Belanger, Jones, Petrell – really, anybody in the bottom six. I really think no one was buying and the “we want to keep this together for the stretch run” was just smoke being blown our way. And as it turned out, the rest of the NHL had done their homework. And now MacT more or less admits that other than the core, its open season.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis


            that’s possible. but we have no evidence that is the case.

            We do know that sub-par players went above value in a thin market and that ST has said publicly deals were on the table.

            Maybe he’s blowing smoke.

            But it seems likely teams were calling and that Whitney was a target. He was afterall attached to rumors with various teams.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I assume, by sub par, you mean players like Regehr and Murray. But watching those guys down the stretch , man, they still have some game and actually have been pretty useful. Pro scouting is pretty good (at least for other teams) and I’m sure no one was buying a pig in a poke like Whitney.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis


            as I said at LT’s… we’ll know soon enough.

            when Whitney hits the open market and signs this offseason we’ll get a pretty good indication of his value to various teams out there.

            My guess is he fools enough GMs out there to pull a Barker c. 2011 Oilers or better.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            how about a glass of bourbon?

            you don’t happen to live in Toronto do you?


            at any rate, If the bet is simply whether he finds work in the NHL next year… don’t forget that Cam effing Barker got signed this year after being brutal on the Oil.

            if anything, the constant search for depth on D to stave off inevitable injuries will get him a job.

            I’d expect someone to take a flyer on him.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Watching the turnstile play for the other side was the cherry on top of last night’s win.

            Watching Whitney will be a little more bittersweet, but it will still be a pleasure to watch the kids stroll around him while he takes a half hour trying to pivot.

          • Word to the Bird

            Ryan Whitney is a name that stands out to GM’s. Remember when the albatross himself Gomez signed with the Sharks?

            No doubt about it he signs with a team. Quickly.

  • Crispy

    Does Whitney know he’s out the door already? Interesting tweet.

    Ryan Whitney ‏@ryanwhitney6
    Want to wish the Oilers best of luck in the future. Met a lot of great people and made some life long friends during my time in Edmonton

    • Aron S

      Yeah, the interwebs are blowing up because he just ripped coaching and management. He wants to play with a “really good team” and thinks Potter and Fistric should have been sat before him. More at the Journal (by Willis) and at Lowetide’s site.

      Oh and also, he’s “already made his money” to paraphrase. You’re welcome, Ryan.

      • Aron S

        Yeah I just listened to his end of year interview. Pffff! Well see you later Whitney. Take your inability to turn somewhere else. Newsflash, most people can play better on a “really good team”. That’s kind of what makes them “really good”. LOL

  • I think shot differential and 5 vs 5 goal +/- are much more telling than a simple GF/GA stat.

    The team will improve in this area with experience alone in the top 6, however it is the bottom 6 and our bottom 2 D that have been the killers. This is where things need to dramatically improve.

    It is now time to get rid of Gagner and Hemsky while their value is so high. Sure lots of time has been invested in Sam, but it became clearer as the season went on that he just does not “bring it”. He had a great start, but I think this was due to his stint in Europe, which gave him a headstart. If someone were to do an analysis on his season, I bet it will be be crystal clear that he faded really bad in the last half. I just did not see him be effective in his own end, and he seemed to really struggle to do anything in the O zone. Sure he still collected points, but I think many of the assists were secondary and it was his wingers who were the driving force.

  • Cudos to Yakupov for strong finish , and he should be rookie of the year potential . Off topic : Some veterans have been out of playoffs for so long they have either forgotten how to escalate their games , or just no longer capable of it . It showed markedly during the losing streak as they were unable to show that consistent commitment – only talk of it was about all they in reality did .

  • Horcoff is valuable, and we will be able to get him at a cheap cheap price once his contract is up I’m sure.

    Belanger, Petrell, Hemsky, Gagner, Smithson, Pajaarvi, Lander, Hartikainen, all need to go.

    Jones can put up 15 goals on the third line.
    Brown does his job as well as anyone.
    Horcoff is a good role player who will take less money when we are up against the cap.

    Hemsky is done, Gagner is worth more in a trade than he is on the ice. Gags’ trade value may never be this high again, and he was still on the ice for way too many chances against this year.
    Pajaarvi is big, fast, but soft and just can’t seem to figure out how to play hard.

    • Crispy

      Pajaarvi, Lander and Hartikainen are still young and developing and all have great potential, plus their contracts are favourable. I would like to see them on the 3rd line together next year, I think they would be effective.

      Jones is done, cut him loose. He is not what this team needs.

      Belanger+ (Eager?) might be useful in bringing back something useful.

      Cut Petrell loose.

      Draft one of the top 3 C’s.

      Acquire a top- pairing D man using Hemmer, Gags and prospects if necessary and add a 2nd or 3rd pairing Dman. There should be enough depth on the roster to cover the 3rd pairing when necessary.

      Acquire 2 bangers (one a C) who bring it every night and are effective in their own end and then this will be a play-off team.

  • DSF

    I love how Yak finished the season, but why no love for what Schultz didthis season? Only a couple of points behind the rookie scoring leaders at forward, look at the Dmen that he’s in the mix with:

    J. Schultz: 8-19-27.

    Weber, Phaneuf, Byfuglien, Campbell, Streit, Keith, Green, Gonchar (all at 27 or 28 points).

    -17 happens when you’re on a bad team. Case in point: Brian Campbell at -22.

  • Not sure I agree with the idea that the oilers are just as bad, if not worse than they were last year.

    I think Goal differential tells a better story than winning percent. It doesn’t have the same effect on the standings, but it gives you a better idea of where the team really stands among the other teams around the league.

    We definitely aren’t a playoff team, but we almost cut our goal differential in half. -27 last year, and on pace for -15 this year. This is still awful, and I’d deem it a disappointment for sure, but there’s no denying that it’s an improvement from last season.

    No smart Oiler fans ever expected this team to make the playoffs this year. I’d say most expected them to finish between 10-12 in the west. They finished 12th, and 24th in the league. They said their goal was to play meaningful games in april and the achieved that. They lost every single one of them mind you, but still. Next season the goal has to be the playoffs. No question. From day one. Not meaningful games, not staying in the race. Leading the race.

    Prediction: 2013-14 Oilers goal differential is +5, and they finish in 7th in the west.

    Ebs, Jultz and Nuge bounce back and post good offensive nbrs:

    65pts, 50pts, 60pts respectively.

    Yak will post 60pts
    Hall will post 70pts.

    Don’t be surprised if we see Yakupov play on the right wing with Hall for some long stretches next season when Ebs and Hallsy go cold. By season’s end, Yak may get equal TOI to Ebs. Ebs isn’t all that much better than Yak IMO.

    • StHenriOilBomb

      “We definitely aren’t a playoff team, but we almost cut our goal differential in half. -27 last year, and on pace for -15 this year. This is still awful, and I’d deem it a disappointment for sure, but there’s no denying that it’s an improvement from last season.”

      -27 over an 82 game season is -0.33 per game. -15 over a 48 game season is -0.31 per game. Not much difference. There were some positive points, but the team played remarkably similarly strength hockey the past 2 seasons.

  • Yak for calder.

    Tied for 1st in rookie points.
    Leads all rookies in goals.
    Is +11 better than the co leader J.Huberdeau.
    Leads in sh%
    2:22 min less toi/g than Huberdeau.

    Brodin has been logging 23+ mins per game for Minnesota, but I haven’t paid any real attention to his game so I have no idea why he is so valuable. Must just be a great shutdown guy. Doesn’t seem to have great offensive upside based on his stat line though, 11pts in 45 games, +3.

  • Toro

    I think the fact that he has been tearing it up the last 15 games while most of the team he’s on gave up 15 games ago, should be enough too get him the Calder , Brodin is paired with an allstar in Suter on a really good defensive team, and Huberdau had a good rookie campaign I just think Yak had some bigger moments and scored more goals and a better (+)(-) then him. So he’s most deserving, I wouldn’t have said that 10 games ago but he’s really impressed me lately.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Look at the Montreal Canadians this season. They had the balls to do what needed to be done with Scott Gomez. Why can’t the Oilers do the same with their albatross, Shawn Horcoff?

    The deadwood out, rookies in scenario is working wonderfully in Montreal. Why doesn’t management have the balls to admit this Horcoff debacle is biting them in the arse? Geuss the difference is they have balls and or Oilers don’t/unable to admit they (Katz and Lowe) made a huge mistake. Did I forget to mention balls? I’ hate to omit it accidentally.

    • Crispy

      Because we don’t have any other defensively capable centres who can win faceoffs. Sure Horcoff makes too much money, but I’d only amnesty buyout his contract once we are too tight against the cap. That hasn’t happened yet.

      • Horcoff plays a huge role on this team, I thought we had this conversation already back in February? I really like how he and Hall play together.. I would spend the buyouts on actual deadweight players….not role players.

        • Crispy

          Yes Horcoff is a useful player and that’s been discussed a lot. The problem with buying out the “Deadweight players” is that their cap hits are much lower. Horcoff’s cap hit is 5.5 for the next two years. After next season we”ll have to pay both Nuge and J. Schultz. With the cap lowering I can’t see us being able to afford Horcoff’s cap hit. I also doubt we could afford to re sign Hemsky and keep Horcoff. Who would you rather have on the team?

          As far as Horcoff’s contract setting a precedent… I don’t think so. Gomez’s crazy contract sure didn’t change how Montreal’s GM hard balled Subban last summer. I also don’t think Hall / Ebs are overplayed. Definitely not Hall.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        There’s never a good time to be wasteful with resources. Horcoff types you can buy at Walmart in July every summer. Kyle Wellwood can do everything Horcoff can do, at 1/4 the salary. Having this contract as a precendent does much more harm than good. Is this why the Oilers had to overpay Hall and Eberle to longterm deals, maybe a little i’d have to think.

        Being up against the cap or not is irrelevant. Every article on ON needs a little Horcoff wuv.

        • Word to the Bird

          Please stop with Wellwood. Even if their numbers are similar (I dunno; didn’t check), Wellwood hangs out and gets fat in the offseason. Not the best attitude to emulate.

          Horcoff is overpaid (at least his salary is moving in the right direction the next two years) but he is a pro, whether you like his game or not.

        • Word to the Bird

          I think it’s safe to say Eberle is not overpaid. We’re talking about a player who can put up 76 points in a season.

          As for Hall, 6 million is chump change for a top 10 NHL scorer.

          • Crispy

            With guys like Zach (same number of points as Gagner) Parise making 7.53 million unto 2025(caphit, actually 12 mill for the next 3 years), you can bet your bottom dollar that Ebs and Hall aren’t overpaid. Hall’s contract looks like the smartest thing Tambo did (not much competition but still….)

      • And Horcoff is significantly better than Gomez in my belief. Hes no superstar but he contributes to this team. I figured we should have all see that once he returned from absence earlier in the year.

        Gomez wasnt really contributing at all in MTL

  • I’ll be surprised if he’s even a finalists. It’s almost a guarantee all finalists will be from the east as the east didn’t play against the west. There will be more proof of the eastern media’s Oilers hatred.

  • Greenlingj

    Keep in Mind that yakapov is scoring with limited ice time on a bad team , not paired with a elite defenseman, remember how good all the guys paired with Pronger looked .