Nail Yakupov - #2 in the Top 25 Under 25

Derek Leung

The Russian sniper holds steady in second place in the Copper and Blue top 25.

There's this kid I've seen around, probably about 18 or 19. He loves his job, works hard and all in all does a pretty good job. Sure he makes mistakes, but he learns from those mistakes and has come a long way in a short period of time.

Did I also mention that there's a bunch of people who don't like him for this? His love for his job shows, so people tell him not to be like that, it's not proper. The mistakes he makes are followed by talks of him never being able to learn, despite the fact he's doing this job well about 7 years earlier than most people who are even talented enough to do this job in the first place.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Alan Ben Bruce DB Derek JW Michael Ryan Scott
2 Nail Yakupov
10/06/93 #1, 2012 2 2 3 2 1 3 2 2 2

Previous Rank: #2

Nail Yakupov holds steady at #2 overall. Ben, John and Scott kept him at #3. Bruce and Ryan dropped him one spot (because they hate Enigmatic ™ Russians). Myself and Michael moved him up to #2. Derek Zona left him at #1 (presumably because he hates all Canadians).

It was quite the rookie year for young Mr. Yakupov. He got off to a hot start with 5 goals in his first 8 games, including this little play that got everyone's panties in a bunch:

Yakupov also managed to put 17 shots on goal his first 5 games. The early returns looked strong, then he hit a bit of a wall. The next 26 games saw him score 1 goal and get just 31 shots on net. In that 28 game stretch, he had 10 games where he didn't register as single shot (he had just one other all year). Part of this fall can be explained by the fact that he was moved away from Gagner and Hemsky (I assume because of +/- reasons, it wasn't because of their play), and onto a line with Eric "Black Hole" Belanger. After that experiment failed horrible (who knew?). It wasn't until he started playing with guys like Magnus Paajarvi, Ales Hemsky and Same Gagner that his offensive game came flying back.

The last 14 games saw quite the turnaround. 11 goals on 33 shots in his last 14 games (including a hat trick in the final game against the Canucks) vaulted Yakupov to the top of the rookie scoring lead (where he was promptly snubbed for Rookie of the Year voting).

With the talk of stats being a common theme here (fun fact, regression is the 2nd most used word on C&B after the), it's important to note that Yakupov didn't have a particularly great year. He finished 11th on the team in RelCorsi amongst F, while facing middle of the road competition with middle of the road linemates (7th for both respectively). That being said, he showed some pretty good things. He works hard on the back check (even though he doesn't always go to the right spots, that will come). He doesn't cheat for offense. He has incredible sense for how to get open and find open players in the offensive zone. His shot is world class, especially his one timer.

2013-14 is a big year for Yakupov. Hall-Hopkins-Eberle has formed an impressive trio and now it's up to Yakupov to make the same steps hall did between years 1 and 2. He's going to have to be the guy who drives the play on his line and help take Perron and Gagner to the same level as the top line. The good news is that he has all the skills and tools to get there and he seems committed enough to do it.

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