2014-15 Goals Projection: Nail Yakupov

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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?

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

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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.

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.

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.

Comparables

  • 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.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • 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.

  • 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

    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 ?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    GOil!

        • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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

    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.

    • 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.

  • Big K

    @JonathanWillis

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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