On this day in 2016, the Edmonton Oilers trade Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues

Aleena Aksenchuk
7 months ago
On this day in 2016, the Edmonton Oilers traded forward Nail Yakupov, their first overall pick in the 2012 draft, to the St. Louis Blues.
Things were dicing up quite nicely for the Oilers in 2012, other than the fact they were in the midst of the decade the darkness and hadn’t seen the playoffs in five years… however, they were on route to another first-round selection in the prestigious NHL draft for the third year in a row.
Back in 2012, the Oilers were in the midst of a decade-long playoff drought, but their fortunes began to turn in the post-season. They were on track for their third consecutive first-round pick in the upcoming NHL draft.
In 2010 the Oilers landed Taylor Hall as the first overall selection, and the following year Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joined the ranks. 2012 seemed no different, the Oilers were on route straight for the highly favoured first pick, Yakupov.
In the 2011-12 season leading up to the draft, Yakupov’s performance with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting was electric, posting 49 goals and 101 points. There was a looming consensus that the 18-year-old perhaps may be a potential successor to Alexander Ovechkin, showcasing speed, skill, and an infectious enthusiasm for the game.
Then it happened. The Oilers drafted Yakupov as the first overall pick in 2012. Then it backfired.
Predictions began to swirl around the hockey market, envisioning Yakupov’s rookie campaign: “Yakupov will win the Calder Memorial Trophy,” “Yakupov will score 50 goals in his second season,” and “Yakupov will lead the Oilers back to the Stanley Cup Finals within four years.” As it turns out, those predictions didn’t age overly well.
His inaugural season in orange and blue was within the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, held promise. Yakupov netted 17 goals and 31 points, tying Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau for first amongst rookies in points. It was also the same year the memorable ‘Yak Slide’ took place, when he scored the game-tying goal on January 24, 2013 against the Los Angeles Kings.

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The following 2013-14 campaign saw the forwards’ production start to take a dip, he still scored 11 goals and 24 points, but the Oilers and their fans were patiently waiting for the next scoring prodigy to erupt.
However, his performance during the 2015-16 season was the tipping point for plenty of fans, Yakupov registered eight goals and 23 points, losing the momentum he once had. Then the headlines flooded out, questioning how the young Oilers forward had gone from the first overall pick to the biggest NHL draft bust.
Just before the start of the 2016-17 season, the Oilers made the decision to trade the forward to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Zach Pochiro.
“I don’t know why it didn’t work in Edmonton,” Yakupov reflected to the Edmonton Journal‘s Jim Matheson. “I guess it was the wrong place. Maybe coaches didn’t like me or someone else. Honestly, hard to answer.”
“I’ve had a lot of pressure in my head. The conversations going every day affects your game. I’ve never had the opportunity to play on the best teams. First time I’m going to play on a really, really good team, in the playoffs pretty much every year.”
The forward spent only one year with the Blues, scoring three goals and nine points. A year later he sought out a fresh start with the Colorado Avalanche signing as a free agent with them in the summer of 2017. He eventually found his way back to the KHL, where he now plays with the Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk.
Yakupov’s time in the once City of Champions certainly wasn’t what anyone was hoping for. Perhaps it was the fact he had four different coaches throughout five seasons, maybe it was the strained relationship between him and head coach Dallas Eakins, or simply a reminder that being a first-overall pick doesn’t guarantee greatness.

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