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.

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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.


    • Big K

      It kind of feels like Mac T either has a trade up his sleeve and needs some cap room to pull it off. Or, he’s got nothing and needs the cap room going into next year maybe? Thus that fourth line RW spot will go to one of Lander, Pitlick, Joensu, or Pinnizzoto with Gazdic rotating in on a per need basis. I wonder if when Gazdic is in the lineup is Purcell will be double shifted on a sheltered zone push line, and on the tough minutes Gordon line.

  • Spydyr

    The more important thing than how many goals Yak scores is how much his game evolves away from the puck and his ability to play with and use his teammates.

  • Dan 1919

    Is it just me or is the Oilers’ goal horn loud pitched, annoying, and almost desperate sounding. Like a little girl blowing one of those cheap, obnoxious air horns.

      • Dan 1919

        I think it’s time for Oilers.com to do a poll and find out if the fans are happy with it. Seems to be quite polarizing and it shouldn’t. It’s easy enough to get a goal horn that 75% of the people like without even thinking about it.

        We’re Oiler fans, we need all the gimme entertainment we can get.

  • Big K


    We have heard a lot of commentary over the past year about the coaching staff’s handling of Yakupov. Some people praise Eakins and place the blame on Yakupov while other’s use this as an opportunity to criticize the Coach.

    What we haven’t heard much about are the roles fellow players have in mentoring their teammates. I don’t have a specific question but just wanted to get your thoughts as to how you think fellow wingers like Eberle, Perron and particularly Hall can play in Yakupov’s development.

    Being a winger, a former 1st overall pick, and an emerging leader I would think that Hall is in a position to be a great mentor to Yakupov. Do you think this is happening and do you think this could help accelerate Yakupovs development so he can turn things around.

  • camdog

    Brett Hull was 24-25 before anybody knew where he was at. Not saying that Yakopov is Brett Hull as he could just as easily turn into a flop, but his deficiencies are identical.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Yak will have only a few goals (6) by Christmas because he cant get along with Eakins.

    MacT and 6 Rings will back up Eakins and trade Yak for next to nothing.

  • bwar

    Yakupov’s success this year really depends on if Eakins expects him to once again be accountable for every mistake any Oiler makes.

    Hopefully Yak sees more consistent usage this season. Both with consistent line mates and powerplay time. Really hoping Yakupov gets his groove back.

  • Britts94

    So far, Jon’s estimates have the Oilers with 133 goals from Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Perron, Yak, Pouliot, and Purcell. With the 2nd line C a massive clusterf***, he (whoever he may be) could add anywhere from 10-25 goals. Let’s say 17 to put it in the middle. That gives the Oilers 150 goals from the top 2 lines plus 1. Last year, the Oil had 199 goals for in the season. Will the 3rd and 4th lines be able to put up 50 goals in one season? Even with MacT’s “3 scoring lines” mentality, it seems like our beloved Oilers might not even reach their total GF from last year. Yikes. Of course, this is all based on estimation, which has been long-proven a stupid thing to do from a hockey fan’s standpoint.

    • Jason Gregor

      Are you saying the blueline won’t score any goals?

      Last year they scored 30 goals, but only three on the PP. With the addition of Nikitin and Schultz another year older they will score more than three PP goals.

      So that leaves the 3rd line C and 4th lines to score a total of 20 goals. (You can’t say the 3rd line when you included Pouliot and Purcell in your 133 totals).

      JW also didn’t include EN goals, Oilers scored 8 last year, so toss in another 8 goals and based JW’s projections the Oilers are on pace to score more than last year.

      The Oilers were the 24th in goals scored last year last year. They damn well better score more goals this season.

      • Serious Gord

        32 more goals puts them in the top ten in scoring last year. Hard to see how one can be confident they can do that with the current center situation.

        And at 267 GA – dead last – the real issue shouldn’t be gF but GA. And again the weakness down the middle and the unknown/unproven in net make confident predictions impossible.

        If EDM can end the season with the same ga as gf it will be a huge achievement for the roster as it’s currently configured.

      • camdog

        To be fair if they go into next season without another proven centre, I’d say it’s 50-50 that they’ll score more goals then last season. That said I do expect their to be an addition or two before the season starts.

  • Reg Dunlop

    How many goals for comrade Yak? Depends. Are we including the 1 goal he scores in OKC after being sent down? How about the dozen he pots in the KHL after bolting like a Bolshevik?

  • J.R.

    ugh. When people say ‘trade this guy’ what is their expectation for a return? This guy looks like Alexander Daigle right now and all that the Oilers can do is hope that he starts to develop quickly because the Oilers have had him too long to trade him based on 2 year old projections.
    One can only hope that his potential value will begin to rise once the skates are laced back up but until this guy starts to look like a number one pick in his third pro season the Oilers are stuck with him. They couldn’t get Devin Dubnyk back for him straight up right now.

      • Randaman

        If you are so educated then please enlighten us uneducated fans. Opinions are just thoughts based on observation. Education has nothing to do with it. keep your derogitory comments to yourself.

      • Spoils

        Actually Daigle was traded for Prospal Falloon plus a 2nd rounder… That was a lot more than Dubnyk. I do understand your worry, but I think the oilers have to run with Yak or it could turn out to be a real big mistake. I do think they can get more for him now but IF he struggles again next season you can be guaranteed they will get much less. This is kinda why I half expected him to be traded. Looks like they have decided to go for the risk rather than a small reward.

        We are not privy to what management is saying or trying to do with YAK but They need to shelter him or play him with Hall a bit to get his confidence back. If they give him primo zone starts and 1st PP time I am saying 28 goals 32 assists for 60pts. Go YAK Go !!!!!

  • A-Mc

    Such an exasperating player to watch without the puck or not on offense . He got away with it in junior but the NHL you can’t . He has got to grasp a hockey IQ beyond offence and bring rest of game up to NHL level . He has got the speed and physical makeup to make it happen , he is just to reluctant to make it happen . When he does his playing time will multiply rapidly and his scoring will more than double I predict – 35-40 goals . If he keeps shying away from adding this to his game , I see no reason to keep him much longer with others like Draisaitl , etc . emerging that will equal his goals and also be better (NHL -level) at 200ft game and a better overall hockey IQ that goes beyond just offence . Being lackadaisicle on forecheck , backcheck or defensive responsibility is going to have to change for him – unacceptable . The kid can do it as we have seen glimpses of it , only question is will he do it this year and earn his rightful place on team ?

  • BlazingSaitls

    It’s so difficult to predict this player right now. He has all the necessary tools to one day be a 40 goal scorer. But his issue appears to be reading the plays, understanding the systems, and putting himself in the right position to receive a pass and get his howitzer of a shot off. I can’t tell if he’s just too over zealous out there or if communication is the main hinderance with this player?

    In my mind what Eakins/MacT/ Coaching staff do or not do is going to tell us a lot about their abilities as much as Yaks. Get him tuned in and this could be a very different team this year.

    • Good question.

      The reason is because his 2012-13 number is also used in the projection. The 12-13 and 13-14 numbers are weighted and combined to create an estimate of his peak production, which is then used for the 14-15 forecast.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Because the oil will be playing with the lead far more frequently, Yak will not have the looming pressure of defensive perfection. Confidence will result from a more suitable style and we could see a resurrection of the Yak from the 12-13 season

    • BlazingSaitls

      12-13 season only?!

      My predict is that once Yakupov finds his groove he will crazy explode offensively.

      Just looking at the goals in vid those are some pretty good goals and he does so in such a way it’s like my god this kid is gonna be awesome.

      But yea your 100% right. Our continually improving defence should mentally lighten the load for Yakupov.

  • Dan 1919

    Can you do an article on Derick Brassard as a possible target for the Oilers
    I might be a little hopeful but he could definitely help fill the void at centre

  • I think with the addition of Craig Ramsay, Yak Will have a great bounce back season. From all reports I’m hearing he’s working hard on his skating trying to get faster. Which will help him with his back checking. He knows if he wants the puck more he’s going to have to take it from someone’s stick. Ramsay will get a first hand look at the kids skills and use him on the power play he has a Hull of a shot.

    What I don’t get is why everyone wants to give up on this kid so much. His personality is jubilant, but you can tell he’s one of those players that needs a little coddling. He needs to know he’s accepted and needed on this team. And he is needed on this team. He could be a future 30-40 goal scorer. People need to relax on this guy and see what he can do at a full 100% season.

  • bazmagoo

    I really hope Nail brings it this season, he’s got the potential to be a superstar. He seems to have a pretty solid work ethic but he seems to be lacking a little physically in my opinion (mainly skating speed). If he can bridge that gap the guy’s gonna be a superstar in my opinion.

  • Heck L.A., scored 198 goals last season, one less than the Oilers.

    Why weren’t the Oilers in the playoffs…

    Forgot.. they had 267 goals against! Got the NHL trophy for it.
    L.A., had 168 goals against. That’s where the cookie crumbles for the Oilers.. play a better defense game and you will win.

    Wild were in the playoffs, with 199 goals and 198 against.

    Philly, Ottawa, Wash, Tor, Wpg,Det, and NYI, all scored more goals than NYR,yet the Rangers were in the playoffs.

    Just saying.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    yaks will pull a bit of a stamkos and score 51 next year. book it.

    all seriousness though, 20 goals playing 3rd line minutes would be great.im happy with 20G20A. i think he can produce at that level. hes apparently training a lot this off season. i think he will bounch back. it could propel us into the playoffs. we were almost a .500 team in the lockout season and we were close to .500 in the last half of this season. mediocre defence plus young stars improving plus 2 years of the same head coach could get us a playoff spot IMO.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Perron not listed in Westcott column on Oilers site as a carry over to this year . HMMM- An error/omission on his part , or is there a trade involving Perron coming soon ? Perhaps with Montreal involving Galchenyuk(C) plus ?