Photo Credit: Twitter.com/KHL

Nail Yakupov signs with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL

It’s the news that we’ve all kinda seen coming for a while now, but former first overall pick, Nail Yakupov, has signed a one-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL after spending the last six seasons with three different NHL teams. 

Even though Yakupov heading back to Russia to play in the KHL is something that most of us have expected for a while now, it still doesn’t the news any better for fans of the guy. Sure, you can call him a bust, many already have, and you can say that he never had the talent required to live up to the billing of being a first overall pick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still feel bummed out for a guy that was both a great person and filled with a joy for the game when he first got here. Remember the guy that was happily bouncing around at practice and riding his stick in the intrasquad games? I certainly do.

Unfortunately, Yak’s NHL journey has come to a close (for now) after six seasons and 350 games played between three different teams. His most productive season being his lockout-shortened rookie campaign where he scored 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points in 48 games. After that, things just kinda fell off the rails for Yak as he could never seem to find his footing anywhere else that he played, be it here or elsewhere. Some folks say that Yak could never commit to a 200-foot game while others say that he just didn’t have the hockey IQ required to play at the NHL level, but no matter how you slice it, his NHL career was not befitting of a first-overall pick. In fact, his 350 games make him the shortest tenured first-overall pick in NHL history, behind guys like Patrik Stefan and Alexandre Daigle. That’s not exactly great company.

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But maybe the journey isn’t necessarily over? Perhaps signing a one-year deal in the KHL means that Yakupov would like to make an NHL return someday but that’s really just me guessing. Unfortunately, being a great person with a love for the game and a bounce in your step doesn’t exactly ensure NHL success, but that’s where he’s at right now and the news is disappointing. Despite not being an Oiler anymore, I was always pulling for Yak and hoping that he would find a way to figure things out. Then again, maybe he was just never able to get that joy for playing back after losing his confidence and being bounced around in various roles? But you never know, maybe this time in the KHL will help him figure things out or maybe I’m just being an optimist about a guy that I always had a lot of time for.

Regardless of what happens in the future, I want to wish Yak all the best as he heads back overseas to continue his career. Who knows what the future will hold for him, but I can’t help but have a soft spot in my heart for the guy that was so good in our community despite not having the results on the ice.

Remembering the better times:


Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- PIM
2012-13 Edmonton Oilers NHL 48 17 14 31 24 -4
2013-14 Edmonton Oilers NHL 63 11 13 24 36 -33
2014-15 Edmonton Oilers NHL 81 14 19 33 18 -35
2015-16 Edmonton Oilers NHL 60 8 15 23 24 -16
2016-17 St. Louis Blues NHL 40 3 6 9 14 -3
2017-18 Colorado Avalanche NHL 58 9 7 16 26 2
NHL Totals 350 62 74 136 142


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Source: KHL, Official Twitter Account, 7/3/2018 – 5:56 am MST

    • That's My Point

      One of the ONLY Oilers to average a point per game while playing with McDavid.
      Great shot and hand eye coordination.
      Should have won the Calder trophy.

    • crabman


      I agree it was never a lack of effort. Good hard working kid with a great attitude towards life. I always liked Yakupov, defended him and was still rooting for the guy after he left the Oilers.
      I still believe a better coach and organization could have made a player out of him. 17G-14A-31P in 48 games as a rookie and only -4, for a so called defensive liability player, are some pretty encouraging stats. Eakins was the worse thing to happen to him. With a coach that played to Yakupov’s strengths and coached a style that was conducive to his learning maybe he would have developed better. Yakupov also always seemed to play better with a veteran/teacher on his line. I saw many games live his rookie year and remember watching Horcoff with his arm sround him on the bench and teaching him in game. When Horcoff left along with Krueger, Yakupov’s developement stalled and he never recovered. As you say in a later comment he was never going to be a bottom 6 checker, it’s not in his DNA.
      The blame for Yakupov’s limited hockey IQ, or how he was able to learn, significantly falls on the player but much of the blame needs to go on the coaching staff as well. Great coaches and teachers find a way to get the most out of the player and student.
      Yakupov never found his offense again but outside of -33 and -35 Dallas Eakins years, he has been a much more reliable defensive player with -4, -16, -3, and +2 seasons.
      There was a player there and Eakins and the entire Oilers coaching staff did the player and the organization a disservice. They needed that #1 overall player to workout.

  • BrandieBear

    Kind of sad to see him go but I hope the trip to the KHL helps him, and that he can rebuild his confidence. I think if he regains his confidence he might be able to play a bottom 6 role in the NHL again one day

  • ubermiguel

    Barring some miracle of a return to the NHL we can now declare Yakupov the biggest bust in the history of #1 picks. And before people start ragging on the management team and owner Yakupov was pretty much the consensus #1. Murray was #1 on some lists, but Murray is a bottom-pairing defenceman now. So 2012 was a weird draft year, and there was no avoiding a dud with the first overall pick. This is all completely divorced from how good a person Yakupov is, and how much I (and most other fans) wish him well.

  • Towers-of-dub

    how many scouts projected him as a #1 pick, but completely missed his lack of hockey intelligence? Even if Edmonton didn’t pick him 1st, he would have probably gone in the top 5. too bad tho. Nice guy.

  • TKB2677

    I have got into many debates over the years on this site plus others about Yak being a bust. Matt Henderson was probably the worst for beating the Yak drum and blaming everyone except the player for him not panning out.

    The fact is, he’s got all the tools to be a good player, just zero hockey sense and zero hockey IQ to put it all together. Derek Roy the “Yak whisperer” even said he was extremely difficult to play with. When you are drafted #1 overall and was the consensus #1 overall and you can’t even secure a top 12 forward spot in the NHL, that’s not a coaches fault, that’s on him.

  • hags437

    Who cares?! Seriously why does every article have to mention this guy? He was a bust plain and simple a la Patrick Stefan, Rick Dipietro and Gord Kluzak. I loved the guys energy and enthusiasm for the game but he’s a terrible NHLer. Move on people

  • The Ghost of Alex Plante

    I was hoping Washington would pick him up. I think that could have been a good spot for him. With some mentoring from Ovi I think at the very least Yak could have turned into a 4th line/power-play guy. For all his warts he still has a cannon. Yak setting up on Ovi’s spot on the 2nd unit could have turned out pretty well.

    Oh well, best of luck in the KHL. I’ll always have a soft spot for Yak, he was a good guy.

    • hockey1099

      Ovi’s spot is Ovi’s spot and he plays it for nearly 2min on the PP. Yak couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with his shot. Hard without accuracy is nothing so i ahve no idea what you think he would do out there for 3-6 seconds. One of the worst players in the NHL ( Yak) has no business being mentioned in the same breath as the GR8.

      • The Ghost of Alex Plante

        Ovi plays nearly 2 minutes each power-play? Are you sure about that?

        The capitals had 244 power-plays last year. Ovi average 4:12 a game on the PP. So that’s 338 minutes out of approximately 480 minutes (70% of their power-play time). That mean’s Yak would have roughly 36 seconds of ice time per power-play. If Washington averages almost 3 power-plays a game, that’s 108 seconds of power-play time per game. So I have no idea why you think he’d only be out there for 3-6 seconds.

        Also, suggesting Ovi as a mentor to Yak is not a slight against Ovi as you seem to think it is. It’s actually an acknowledgment of how great of a player Ovi really is. Who better than Ovi for Yak to learn from?

        • hockey1099

          244 power plays does not equal 480 minutes. Some are 5min, some are 5 on 3, and 22% ended early because Washington scored. So yeah watch him play he is out there for 95% of the PP

          • The Ghost of Alex Plante

            Ya, I’m aware of that. Note the “approximately” and “roughly” in my post. In my quick search I wasn’t able to find the total time Washington spent on the PP over the year to get an exact percentage of his usage. Although I’m pretty confident it is closer to 70% than it is to 95%.

            To be honest with you I’m not going to look into it further. My level of interest in what Washington does on their PP stops at about 2 minutes of research. Enjoy watching the Caps play next year.

  • Serious Gord

    Yak is the poster child for scouting failure – not just oil scouts but the entire system.

    Did any scout publically say he would likely be a bust? How was his low HOckey IQ missed?

    • FISTO Siltanen


      He was pretty much the consensus #1 pick that year from everyone like Craig Button, Bob McKenzie…

      In some ways I hoped Yak would find some success somewhere – heck, even Daigle figured out a role late in his NHL career that he was able to adequately fulfill. But seeing how Yak couldn’t figure it out in the NHL should, but probably won’t, give Oilers a bit of a break for a failed pick. If he had game why couldn’t Hitchcock or Yeo or (whoever the coach is in Colorado) unlock it? They all had ample reason and motivation to do so.

  • Oiler Al

    It was either Yak or Murray. We know how things turned out for both.Always taught Montreal should have picked him up and played him with Galyenchuk, they might have had a spark together.
    2012 not a banner draft year, still would have taken a local kid by the name of Parayko in the third…Oh he didn’t play for the Oil Kings.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Whenever I think of Nail Yakupov, I think of Joe Murphy. By the time Murphy got here in the fall of 1989, he was pretty much a “failed No. 1 overall draft pick” or, at the very least, trending that way. At that point, it had only been three years since he went first overall.

    But the trade to the Oilers that season, along with a remarkable playoff run on a line with Martin Gelinas and Adam Graves, saved Murphy’s career. He had two more solid years in Edmonton and went on to have a respectable, if not spectacular, career.

    Nail never got as lucky. That’s not necessarily his fault, but the fact that there were only a few teams out there willing to trade for what was left of his potential was telling. The Oilers of the late-1980s were famous for their reclamation projects – Sather loved “saving” players … but only if there was a decent player there to save.

    Yak is a great kid. Big heart. The puck exploded off his stick. But the hockey sense wasn’t there – certainly not enough for a reclamation project.

    As for the Oilers – I’m not any more convinced they “ruined” him than they simply picked a kid who had peaked in junior, in a weak draft year. That sometimes happens … and with the number of No. 1 picks the Oilers had over the last 10 years, the Law of Averages suggests that it was bound to happen.

    I wish Nail well. I’ll never forget that tying goal against the Kings.

    • Hey what was it for, do you know? We’re still working on knocking those out. Basically, what’s happening is that these random turd websites are buying all kinds of very low CPM autoplay ads and they trick the networks into letting them through. We’re also working with sites like Elite Prospects and Hockey DB because they’re having the same issue. Definitely not a goal to have them.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    I feel he was hurt by the gong show that was the Edmonton Oilers’ management when he was drafted. Ralph Krueger was a good coach who, given a couple more years, could have built a competitive team. His firing did more to hurt Yak than anything. He was not used correctly after Eakins took over. It stunted his development and he never recovered. If he can find his game in the KHL, an NHL return is not out of the question.

  • vetinari

    Yak will always feel like a missed opportunity and a wasted asset no matter how you slice it. Wish him all the best but also wish we could have got something useful for him before we parted ways.

  • Spiel

    The 3rd round pick the Oilers received from St.Louis for Yakupov was packaged with a 5th rounder (from the Philip Larsen deal) to acquire the pick to select up and coming goalie prospect Stuart Skinner in the 2017 draft.

  • TKB2677

    I keep saying the same message over and over again and I will keep saying it until all Oilers fans finally clue in.

    Yakupov was the #1 overall draft pick in 2012. He at the time was the consensus #1 overall pick. He has 350 NHL games and could not figure out how to play in the NHL in order to secure even a full time top 12 position as the last 2 NHL teams felt he should sit in the pressbox rather than play.

    If you are supposedly so good that you are the #1 draft pick IN THE WORLD you should be able to secure a full time top 12 NHL spot automatically especially after 6 seasons in the NHL. If you can’t, you are NOT an NHLer.

  • Arfguy

    I like Yakupov. I think he’s going to have a pretty good career in the KHL and hopefully be back in the NHL. I will maintain that the Oilers should have tried to bring him back for league minimum.