What Kind of Player Will Nail Yakupov Become?

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Few questions matter more to the current edition of the Edmonton Oilers than the one regarding Nail Yakupov’s future. Coming off a terrible year, is he a draft bust in the making or is he a player with extraordinary potential who just had things go sideways?

What does history suggest?

To try and answer that question, I looked back at 20-year-old forwards over the lockout era (1994-95 to present) who posted similar scoring numbers to those run up by Yakupov this season. I then further refined the list by shots-per-game to eliminate players who fired the puck much more (e.g. Phil Kessel) or much less (e.g. Henrik Sedin) than Yakupov.

For interest’s sake, I also included other players the same age as Yakupov who had similar results this season, and to make comparison either projected all totals over a full 82-game season.

The Best Case Scenario

Player Season G A PTS Shots SH%
Jamie Benn 2009-10 22 19 41 182 12.1
Marian Hossa 1998-99 21 20 41 169 12.1
Patrick Marleau 1999-00 17 23 40 163 10.6
Mika Zibanejad 2013-14 19 20 39 182 10.5
Daniel Sedin 2000-01 22 15 37 139 15.7
Corey Perry 2005-06 19 18 37 144 13.3
Joffrey Lupul 2003-04 14 23 37 150 9.5
James van Riemsdyk 2009-10 16 21 37 182 8.7
Jarome Iginla 1997-98 15 22 37 180 8.4
Jonathan Huberdeau 2013-14 11 23 34 128 8.3
Alex Frolov 2002-03 15 18 33 146 9.9
Boone Jenner 2013-14 18 15 33 145 12.6
Nail Yakupov 2013-14 14 17 31 159 9.0
Nikita Kucherov 2013-14 14 14 28 161 8.8
Zemgus Girgensons 2013-14 9 16 25 135 7.0

That’s a pretty nice list of players. Benn, Hossa, Marleau, Sedin, Perry and Iginla highlight an impressive group of forwards who were able to recover from a less-than-impressive 20-year-old campaign.

Yakupov is toward the bottom of the list, but it’s worth noting his shooting percentage – at 9.0 percent one of the worst totals among these forwards. I think we can safely call Yakupov a high-end shooter based simply on watching the games; if we were to credit him with (for example) Perry’s shooting percentage he would have scored at a 21-goal pace and be sitting near the top of this list.

It isn’t unrealistic to think he could develop into a brilliant offensive player, given some of the names on this list.

The Worst Case Scenario

Player Season G A PTS Shots SH%
Peter Mueller 2008-09 15 26 41 157 9.4
Mika Zibanejad 2013-14 19 20 39 182 10.5
Sergei Krivokrasov 1994-95 24 14 38 144 16.7
Todd Harvey 1995-96 11 24 35 120 8.9
Jonathan Huberdeau 2013-14 11 23 34 128 8.3
Boone Jenner 2013-14 18 15 33 145 12.6
Mattias Tedenby 2010-11 11 20 31 123 9.2
Nail Yakupov 2013-14 14 17 31 159 9.0
Rostislav Olesz 2005-06 11 18 29 146 7.6
Alexandre Daigle 1995-96 8 20 28 126 6.5
Nikita Kucherov 2013-14 14 14 28 161 8.8
Kris Beech 2001-02 10 16 26 131 7.9
Zemgus Girgensons 2013-14 9 16 25 135 7.0
Brad Isbister 1997-98 11 10 21 143 7.8

Hey, look, it’s Alexandre Daigle! And Kris Beech, who was once traded for Jaromir Jagr! Plus, Albany Devils sniper Mattias Tedenby!

It would be unfair to say that Yakupov is tracking like a draft bust; just as with the best case list these names were cherry-picked to provide the worst possible contrast. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say that’s not not tracking like a draft bust.

Gambling

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At one end of the scale, we know that future Hart Trophy winners had 20-year-old seasons in which they scored as poorly as Yakupov. We also know that some of the worst draft busts in history had 20-year-old seasons in which they scored as poorly as Yakupov.

It’s up to the player and the coaches to find a way to arrive at the former rather than the latter outcome, to channel Yakupov’s raw talent into a form where he can be a difference-maker for the team. 

Dallas Eakins 9

In a lot of ways, I think that’s one of the main points history is going to judge Dallas Eakins on – if he loses Yakupov (though to be honest, most of Yakupov’s problems predate Eakins’ arrival), if he can’t find a player in there, it’s going to be a massive blow to the team and an indictment of his abilities as a teachingcoach. On the other hand, if Yakupov emerges as a major asset for the Oilers, that will say something significant, too.

At this point it could go either way.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Rdubb

    Nail will NEVER be a QUALITY NHL PLAYER until he decides to learn to play away from the puck, & it is that plain and simple!!! It doesn’t matter if you score 80G and get 40A yet you’re sitting @ a -35, really, by going minus, and by a country mile too, scoring a ton of goals doesn’t mean a thing
    Nail proved to me last season that he isn’t nearly as mature as one would like, especially with his speech that went something like “I play the game the way I do, I am offensive, I shot to score, I don’t play defensive hockey. my game is good, I don’t need to change”, or something very similar to that…
    Hopefully Nail as matured a bit this past season and has been told by his agent, by his folks, family, Oiler players and management that the NHL game is far different than the OHL or the Q & an offensive player MUST play hockey away from the puck and must also learn how to play defense…
    Instead of looking up to a guy like Ovie (where rumors are abound of his ove out of WAS because of his lack defensive play and lack of willingness to learn), look up to a guy like DET’s Datsyuk, the most under rated player in the NHL with the puck, considered to be the most skilled player in the world by many, a great offensive wizard, but also a great defensive player, who plays in all situations and at all times, now that’s a guy to look up to and emulate, especially being the same Nationality…
    Just a thought