There are been some good times for Nail Yakupov in Edmonton, but each fall brings the same questions. Does he have four years’ experience, or one year’s experience four times? Why does he have such a difficult time playing such a relatively easy position (defensively)? Can he make enough of a difference to play consistently on a scoring line? We have to be at some kind of crossroads, right?
NAIL YAKUPOV 15-16
5×5 points per 60: 1.35 (8th among regular forwards)
5×4 points per 60: 3.46 (7th among regular forwards)
- Corsi for % 5×5: 49.2
Qual Comp: 10th toughest among regular forwards (4line opp)
Qual Team: 8th best teammates among regular forwards (fourth-line teammates)
Corsi for % Rel 5×5: 2.3
Shots on goal/percentage: 127/6.3
Boxcars: 60GP, 8-15-23 .383
These are the numbers Nail posted a year ago, in many ways his best NHL season. His career shooting percentage is around 10, so part of his point total of a year ago comes from playing in some bad luck. Since these things tend to even out over time—and the fact Nail missed 22 games—that goal total (8) is not reflective of what we might call his true talent.
The problem for Nail? It is what it is. If the young man had posted a possession number near 50 (he did), scored 17 goals (he did not, due to injury and poor shooting numbers), we might be talking about his ability to build on last season. As it is, just like a kid who cannot get the bike chain to work for more than a minute or two, Nail Yakupov is back where he was a year ago: A frustrated (and frustrating) former No. 1 overall pick who never has established himself as a bona fide part of the future.
Todd McLellan,September 23: “He’s a tremendous player with a great skill-set. He’s got a great
shot and it’s a matter of putting it all together and being productive. Everybody involved in this organization — players,
coaching staff and Yak — have to work hard to get him to where he should
be. He’ll do that. We’ll help him.” Source
I imagine Todd McLellan has some ideas about how to unlock some of that offense, but the one spot that does work (RW with McDavid) seems unlikely for Nail. The Oilers have Jordan Eberle in that role, Nail does not have a strong history with Nuge as a center, and increasingly the RW depth chart is getting crowded. The addition at the draft—unanticipated, I am certain—of Jesse Puljujarvi signals the future of RW in Edmonton (14, 39) and once again Yakupov is on the outside.
Additionally, adding Kris Versteeg—another fluke, he had originally signed to play in Europe—has us here. How many ways can you get Nail Yakupov onto this roster?
If Nail doesn’t play on McDavid’s line, things get tougher. Playing with McDavid was a massive boost for Yak one year ago. He was 2.63 at 5×5
with 51.9 Corsi for 5×5 with McDavid, and 0.83 5×5 with 48.1 Corsi
without McDavid. No question about who was zooming who one year ago.
If Nail doesn’t play with 97, he is probably best suited for 3R work on Leon’s line. That might mean Eberle 1R, Kris Versteeg 2R and Zack Kassian 4R, with Jesse Puljujarvi on the wing with Bakersfield for the first 20 games or so.
And that is the problem. The Oilers future on RW is clearly Jordan Eberle, Jesse Puljujarvi and then inexpensive role players—one of whom should be able to help offensively, while also hopefully able on the penalty kill. Tobias Rieder, that kind of guy.
I cannot see a way clear for Nail at this time. Can you?