2014-15 Goals Projection: Nail Yakupov


Nail Yakupov is the most interesting player on the Edmonton Oilers roster because he is still something of a mystery. He has high-end skill – his first overall selection in the 2012 Draft was no accident – and led all rookies in scoring in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. On the other hand, things went very, very, badly last season.

What should we expect from him in the goal-scoring department in 2014-15?

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For those interested in a brief explanation of this series, see the first post in it (on Taylor Hall). Just a reminder about two things: I’m not projecting breakout seasons here (though they happen) and “comparables” are just the players inhabiting roughly the same roster position on the eight Western Conference playoff teams, and that empty-net goals are not included.

Games & Usage


It didn’t get a lot of attention, what with the minus-33 rating and occasional healthy scratches, but poor health was definitely part of the Yakupov story last year. TSN has him down as missing 16 games in all to ankle and head injuries after being the picture of health in 2012-13. Let’s peg him to miss half that, eight games, in 2014-15.

Yakupov’s ice time over the last two years has been virtually identical. He played 12.1 minutes per game at even strength in both 2012-13 and 2013-14; betting on him to be in that range again seems likely. His power play ice time fell from 2:28 per game in 2012-13 to 2:10 in 2013-14. I have a hunch we’ll see him bounce back to that 2012-13 number (or higher), but let’s play it conservative and split the difference at 2:19.

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Goal-Scoring Curve

Yakupov’s shot rates at even-strength and on the power play over his two NHL seasons (via ExtraSkater.com) are as follow:

Age % of Peak EV Shots/60 PP Shots/60
19 83.3% 5.4 11.2
20 86.7% 7.0 13.8
Projected 90.0% 6.6 13.2

Despite the poor campaign, Yakupov’s shot rates spiked at both even-strength and on the power play in 2013-14, and they spiked more than our aging curve expected. That’s good news, and suggests the projection here may well be on the conservative side.

Using the above games played and ice time projections, Yakupov is expected to fire 98 shots at even strength and an additional 38 on the power play.

On his career he’s a 12.5 percent shooter at even-strength. Given that his career only consists of 136 shots in those situations, normally I’d dial that number down, but my eyes tell me this guy is a special finisher (not just my eyes, either; Red Line Report marked him as having the best shot in the 2012 draft and described him as having “tremendous release on a heavy shot… and can fit it through a keyhole”). If I’m right in leaving the shooting percentage as is, we would expect 12 goals at even-strength.

Yakupov’s power play shooting percentage on his career is 17.3 percent; my best guess is that it makes sense to move that halfway back toward his even-strength number, which would make him a 14.9 percent shooter. If that number is accurate, we would expect six goals on the power play.

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Total: 18 goals. It’s not a great number for a first overall pick’s third season, though it is a big step up from last season’s 11-goal outing. Yakupov’s going to be awfully hard to predict – he could go anywhere from first unit power play to less ice time than last year, and at evens he’ll either benefit from the improvements on the wing or see them cut into his opportunities.


  • Anaheim: Jakob Silfverberg (10)
  • Colorado: Maxime Talbot (7)
  • St. Louis: Derek Roy (9)
  • San Jose: James Sheppard (4)
  • Chicago: Kris Versteeg (12)
  • Los Angeles: Tyler Toffoli (11)
  • Minnesota: Dany Heatley (11)
  • Dallas: Antoine Roussel (13)

    Average: 10 goals.

Derek Roy’s name is going to raise a few eyebrows, but he spent a bunch of time on the ice with Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka, so he’s slotted as a winger here rather than as one of the Blues’ four centres (the other two are David Backes and Max Lapierre).

As a rule, even good NHL teams don’t get a lot of goal-scoring out of their No. 6 winger, but the Oilers are a special case. It’s a good thing, too – as we’ll see when we look at their second and third line centres next time out.


  • Serious Gord

    Being out of the playoffs after essentially the first month last year sure didn’t help. I know these guys are professionals but it’s human to feel down about it and that showed in his game.

    I’d put my money on 25.

  • A-Mc

    Yak needs to put his big boy pants on and get here done on the other side of the puck. He’s got to show that he is trying and working hard on his game.

    Think he would gain more confidence if the coach treated him like he is one of the core guys.

    By eye on the ice, the core fab four don’t give him the high fves and huggies like they do for themselves. IF Hall wants to be the captain one day , he has to know that there are other players on team , other than Eberle, Nuge, and Schultz.

  • To all the Yak City haters: Let’s try and remember this kid came from dirt. Worked his way up through hockey in Russia, came to Canada to learn the North American game, and became the best in the league, and the consensus number one pick. He doesn’t drink and party. Then upon being drafted to one of the worst teams in nearly a decade, he moved his entire family to Edmonton so he could be here. Then after a solid rookie campaign, he got the coaching shaft. Seriously, go take a look at how this kid was used last year: http://www.coppernblue.com/2014/4/7/5587734/3-nail-yakupov
    Not only that, but he gets stapled to the bench, meanwhile guys like Eberle are making the exact same defensive mistakes, but god forbid they get punished at all for it. As a kid with this much talent, how frustrated would you be being put on a line that guarantees you’ll be ineffective?
    The Oilers have a game breaking weapon and talent in Yakupov, and if he’s not producing at top levels, that’s on the coach, not on the player. If they burry him on a line with Draisaitl and Pouliot, you might as well trade him for a bag of pucks.

    Perron, Nuge, Yak

    Hall, Arco, Ebs

    Poulliot, Draisaitl, Purcell

    Hendricks, Gordon, pleasegodHavlat

    Sure team’s like Anaheim and Sanjose are going to dominate our top line with their top line, but what the hell do they do after that? Is Kesler, Cogliano, and what the heck say Heatly going to match up against Hall and Ebs?

    They can’t play their top lines all night long. I would say after all the free agent switch ups, in the west only LA, San Jose, St. Louis, and maybe Dallas have the top two line depth to match lines.

    • A-Mc

      Draisaitl and Pouliot might be the perfect line mates for yak attack… I wouldnt be so quick to discount being on that line. LD is an unknown at this point but his scouting reports say he finds guys he has no business finding. If yak is the shot, LD is the pass.

      • BlazingSaitls

        I’m on board with this. I think the entire issue with Yak was the same with Gagner: potentially great player, that is difficult to position in the lineup without sacrificing the production of the team.

        With Yak you do one of two things, maximize his potential, or maximize the team’s potential, there doesn’t seem to be a good way to do both and I think that’s what everyone’s trying to figure out.

        Hall Ebs and Nuge all work best together, simple, easy, done. Perron seems to be Perron with anyone. Poulliot and Purcell I see as swings. You either will help a line increase production, or help a line decrease defensive lapses, but not both. LD is a wild card and so that just leaves Yak.

        I am with you that at least for the start of the year a soft minutes Poulliot, Drai, Yak line could do a few things: Shelter the new kid and let him acclimate to the NHL against softer competition, help Yak refind his game, and lets the vet Poulliot play with young skill that he could potentially mentor a bit.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      I like those lines. Arco played with Hall and Ebs a lot during the lockout and think that may work out ok as Aroc has the heart of a lion… Like your other two lines too but Havlat won’t be coming. We can make a lot of players work their asses off to try and make to the team in that last spot.. Please use Gazdic as rare as possible.

      I think playing Nuge with YAK and Perron may be fine at home but may need to mix that up a bit on the road. He needs to gain confidence to show he CAN play with the big boys.. We should be careful when breaking up the top line but do agree it should be done from time to time…

      • Spoils

        All valid points. I too do not believe Havlat will come to Edmonton. I just had to watch Booth sign in Toronto on a very nice 1 mill for 1 year. That guy forechecks like a maniac. Combined with Hendricks, that line would have been both a high energy hit parade, and a strong possession, tough minute eating, shut down line extraordinaire. But he is gone and I don’t have the faith in Winnik that many others seem to have. Havlat, on the other hand, would essentially give Edmonton the deepest wingers in the entire league. Since we’re tight at centre, and the D is not exactly Team Canada, at least this would give them one position of infinite strength.

        LW: Hall, Perron, Poulliot, Hendricks

        RW: Eberle, Yakupov, Havlat, Purcell

        That would be bananas.

  • Spoils

    I am going to take the over on this one (ie. >18).

    This seems to be more than one man’s opinion, but my money is on Nail getting a big bump in time on a much improved PP. That’s going to create confidence that will mean better ice time, more shots, and more EV goals.

    plus he’s a little older and will be a little better.

    mmm mmm summer kool aid.

    this time next week we’ll be looking at making travel plans to come up for the playoffs.


        • Randaman

          Is there anything that has happened this summer to make you think this is possible? Maybe Ramsey will be the calming influence? MacT hired Eakins but did not draft Yak. He has already shown his loyalty to Eakins by not firing him after last season so if Yak doesn’t improve, who stays and who goes? I lean towards Yak going only because of the threat of the KHL. I would bet on Yak being traded by Christmas if the past trends continue because Eakins isn’t going anywhere.

  • Dan 1919

    He’s got too much going for him to ever be a complete bust, high energy, high intensity, high skill… Worst case scenario he ends up being a 20 goal scorer, best case scenario could still be anything at this point. This season should tell us a lot about what kind of NHL player he’ll be.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Yak is easily the most difficult player to predict goals for. The problem with all these fancy statistics is they can’t measure a players confidence, mindset & health. However, it would be difficult to believe he could have a worse season than last year.

  • In the Grease

    Yak, needs;

    a) a Centre to get him the puck in great shooting zones. RNH or missing this….

    b) a LW that is committed to being back to defend our end. Lots of options …..

    c) a dman with a sweet breakout pass
    A few more options…..

    d) Eakins to coach for success v. impose his will. Big concern ….

    • Spydyr

      Yak needs to get his head out of his arse and commit to a 200 ft game. This is the NHL where you can’t cherry pick at the red line and expect your line mates to do all the work. He needs a centre man to get him the puck or the dman to make the sweet passes and his winger to cover his ass because he wants to float around and just score goals. What a bunch of bull. Madjam got it right, go back and read his post.

  • Alsker

    Yaks’ numbers will be directly impacted by how long Egghead(sorry, Eakins) is his coach. If only MacT would have given Ralphy this supporting group of coaches maybe things would have been different for the Yakster. Oh well, as long as Eakins needs someone to blame for his inabilities, Yak will will falter. Been cheering on the boys since the days of the orange and blue(WHL uniforms)and for the first time ever I truly hope they fall flat on their faces to start the season so MacT has no choice but to turf Egghead(guy just rubs me the wrong way), and from there we excel to mid 20’s(maybe high teens) in the league. This would be a giant step in the right direction.

  • J.R.

    it seems yak was a sheltered individual and is not used to adversity. he probably has never been asked to change his game as he was always talented enough to do whatever he wanted against his peers and just had his ego stroked.

    i hope he’s done some growing and he understands that the way he played in the past won’t work in the NHL. he needs to understand he needs the other people on the ice to be successful, and once he does this, and we’ll see him start showing the reason he was thought of as the best player in his draft year.

    • YakCity1039

      Couldn’t agree more. At this point it is in Yaks best interest to shut up, buy in, learn and play hard. Even if he want out of Edm he’ll only hurt himself by complaining and playing the trade card.

      I think that not having Bucky and Smith and instead having a likable guy like Ramsay will benefit him. Also the additions of more veteran wingers to mentor him.

      Im optimistic hes going to have a bounce back year. The fact that we haven’t heard a pin drop from him since the season ended hopefully is telling me hes training like an animal and is more motivated than ever to return to a higher level of play.

    • Dan 1919

      I used to think maybe that was the case too. Or is the case. But then I think of his agent Larionov, and I really cant see him letting Yak believe he doesn’t need his teammates to make things happen on the ice.

      I think now that a few factors all prob played a minor role in Yaks regression last season. 2 vastly different coaches in two seasons. A couple of injuries. The whole team played bad. Loss of confidence. His young age. The grind of a full season.

      Besides I trained with Yak this summer, I gave him all sorts of steroids and show him to fight. If he doesn’t get 82 goals this year he has a meeting with VP at the Kremlin.