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?


  • 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.

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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.

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.

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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?

  • RossTheBoss

    Shoot Nail out of a cannon into the sun. Done.

    He can’t be sitting their pouting and be waiting to be gifted something. You have to do something after 4 years to show you deserve. Not give him a roster spot because another player is so good, he mask some of your laziness and deficiencies.

    Alexander Daigle and Patrik Stefan are having lunch with Yakupov as we speak.

    • TheRazzleDazzle

      Gifted what? The guys been relegated to the Letestu line every chance they had. If the team gave half the opportunities and half the faith they had in Shultz to Yakupov, I think he’s a completely different player.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Yaks best season was with the supportive Ralph Kreuger. Bring in the hard a$$ Eakins and his game falls off a cliff. I hope a second season with McClellan can rejuvenate his career and undo the damage that Eakins did. 15G and 15 Apples would be great.

    Tired of watching him run around like a lost puppy.

  • I am Batman

    Trade Ebs and the 6 mill he doesn’t deserve to Anaheim for Lindholm

    Klefbom for Trouba

    Looch – McD – yak
    Poo- Nuge – JP
    Maroon- Drai – versteeg
    Whoever (it’s the 4th line)

    Sekera – Larsson
    Lindholm – Trouba
    Nurse – Fayne

    True: Eberle might score more than Yak but it will all balance out with less goals allowed.

    Economic and effective, this is a team that gets us closer to playoffs than Lazy Bastard and Always Sick.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Almost st the end of the line with Yak but I think he will get every opportunity early in the year to make something happen.
    If not it’s down the road. Shape up or ship out!

  • BlueHairedApe

    Some people just don’t get it. If a player can’t contribute on a 3rd or 4th line against much weaker competition then why are the expectations that he would be able to contribute in a top 6 role against the best players in the NHL? If the guy did have as much talent as a lot of people here say he does then he should be lighting things up when he’s logging the 3rd and 4th line minutes. Or even on the power play which he’s been given plenty of opportunities when the team is up a man for petes sakes. If what some people here say is true then why is the guy not worth anything in trade value? Why isn’t he a lock to play for team Russia alongside the likes of Datsuyk or Ovechkin? Because greater hockey minds know better that’s why.

    • MrBung

      Thank You. Lots of players that last in the NHL are versatile. Can reinvent themselves and have a skillset they can use to help a team.

      Getting Yak to use his “offensive talents” to be a contributing member of the Oilers is like having to tease a scared little kitten out from behind the hay bales. It needs to be coaxed and given just the right situation – or his magical talents disappear. Enough with the excuses – it is time to move on for everyone. And way too much is given to his production during the Krueger season. He pumped in a bunch of goals during meaningless games to pump up his stats – and it was a SHORTENED season.

  • giddy

    Who did Yak play with primarily in his rookie season where he put up 17 goals and 31 pts in the 48 game lockout season? What was the difference there besides Krueger? Was his shooting % unsustainably high? Is his collapse all due to Eakins breaking his confidence and being so hard on him?

    • BlueHairedApe

      If I remember correctly he had a lot of production with Horcoff that year. I agree Eakins handled him very poorly but another contributing factor to the players downfall was him and his agents sense of entitlement. I’ve never heard of anyone else’s agent whining and crying to the management when they were dropped down in the lineup. Guess where Hall was spotted for a few games last year when he came back from injury? The 3rd line and he was skating circles around everybody so he quickly earned his way back up to the top. Why can’t Yak do that if he’s such a prodigy?

  • Oilerchild77

    Lowetide: “The Oilers future on RW is clearly Jordan Eberle, Jesse Puljujarvi and then inexpensive role players”

    Lowetide, I wouldn’t be so confident that Eberle is a guaranteed part of the future. He’s a $6M winger who can score, but is poor defensively. Also, they need to free up some space to sign McDavid when his contract is up and even Draisaitl after this season.

    It sounds like one of Nuge or Eberle is likely going to be moved out. Well, Nuge is a good two-way center, something that isn’t easy to find, and if he has a good season, along with Draisaitl possibly moving to the RW, I believe that leaves Ebs the odd man out here.

    Also, I think it would be a ridiculous decision to move out a center for cap space when you can just move out another winger.

  • Spydyr

    The player that is gifted top players is Eberle. Lazy,soft and defensively weak player paid too much. Gifted six million per without earning it, still has not earned it. An entitled player.

    Brad Marchand just signed for 6.125 per. One is a Team Canada’s first line winger the other is not.

  • Oil drop

    Yaks time in Edmonton is all but at an end. I for one think he has not been given enough energy and effort from the team for his draft pedigree. But I am only a fan sitting on the outside. Barring an Eberle trade(hall was traded) or the teams strat to make him available into the expansion draft I do not see the end of the season for this player

  • madjam

    Not much of a Yak fan , but prefer his speed , offence and youth over Versteeg and Kassian . Jesse in time should readily eclipse them all and perhaps even Eberle . If we run with three scoring RWingers then Yak would appear to best long term solution .

  • OilCan2

    He’s 22 or 23!!!

    His best five years are in front of him. ConYak is the way to go. He has the wheels to play with Connor and the shot to match. Ebs, ‘Steeg, JP, Zack and Pitlick should be able to cover all the RW bases with spare pieces.

  • rnj

    Can’t trade Yak for anything. Can trade Ebs for a decent return. What you’d get back for Ebs far outweighs what you’d lose in production putting Yak on the top line in his place.

    Yak-Pulj-Versteeg-Kassian plus an upgrade on defense and clearing cap space > Ebs-Pulj-Versteeg-Kassian

  • oilerjed

    If Yak can produce with McDavid at at a reasonable rate the that is where you should play him.Its not about gifting anything its about putting players in a position to succeed. Everything else is second. McDavids line is out there to score points as fast and as often as they can.

    No one in their right mind would say you play Ebs over Yak due to defensive play, at best they are a wash. If Eberle can produce on another line then that’s where he should go. RNH and Eberle have always played well together and that is a pair you should keep together.
    With some heavy contracts coming up, having a RW that can put up points on the 1st line and at a CHEAP cost is a +++.

    The possibility of Puljujarvi making a run at the the team should be putting Eberle on notice not Yak.





    • daryl

      I agree theres no point in putting Yak with RNH and Yak produced at about the same rate as Ebs with Conner. You can also switch Maroon and Lucic on the top lines as well. If Jesse needs time in the AHL then use Vertseeg on the third line.

  • Oiler Al

    Nice guy , with a bit of talent, but his hockey I Q is wanting badly. 4 years later he still appears lost out there, particularly without the puck.

    I think he has visions of being OV 2nd.,blasting shots from his off wing ,mostly on the power play.
    Maybe its something they teach in Ruissia,because many of the Russian wingers want to play on their off wing:
    OV,Tarasenbko,Kucherov,Panarin,Jaskin to name a few.None these guys are outstaning defensively I,might add.

  • HockeyRulz

    Yak at 2.5 million, with the chemistry he has with McDavid alone is why I would keep him. If Ebs goes down or chemistry drops, you can easily swap him with Yak for a bit or till Ebs is healed.

    • MrBung

      And where are the Oilers goals all going to magically come from? The Oilers traded away their top goal scorer. So – lets trade away the second highest goal scorer from the previous season? How many players does McDavid have to make up for?

  • Elgando

    Yak needs a change of scenery. He’s not the player the team thought he could be and that falls squarely on the GM of the day…. Wonder who that was?!? These glarring errors did not magically appear out of no where. What did MacT see in this guy that he overlooked what his scouts are telling him? Yak, Petry, Eakins, Norris July, Fasth… It’s a miracle this guy is still earning a paycheck in the NHL.

    • RJ

      I don’t think it’s a miracle. We all have that one co-worker that goes out of his way to buddy up to the boss. They aren’t keeping MacT around for his GM-ing skills.

  • Reinman

    Ebs has a 70+ point season under his belt. I agree he needs to be harder on the puck, and use his body better (more aggressively).

    But Yak has never come anywhere close to Ebs ability. One guy is a first line RW, the other is battling to be in the lineup. They are not interchangeable. Also a lot of Yak’s points with McDavid were 2nd assists. A chip off the boards type of play. Ebs is getting himself in prime scoring positions regularly, and McDavid is finding him.

    The only thing sensible I heard is that Ebs’s job may be in jeopardy from Draisaitl. It is not yak that will take his job, that is for sure.

    Draisaitl, could likely fit in well with McDavid and Lucic, and if Poolparty can get the 2nd job, then that leave Ebs the odd man out. Yak doesn’t really enter into the conversation. He would be lucky to earn that 3rd line spot, if he can clean up his overall game.

    Anyway, I love Ebs, But the potential of having Drai and Pul on the right side for our top 6 gives us better size, depth at center, and probably more complete players in that position, and then I could allow myself to part with Ebs.