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#3 - Nail Yakupov

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Nail Yakupov holds steady at number 3 on the Top 25 Under 25

Set for takeoff.
Set for takeoff.
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Nail Yakupov has completed one and a half two calendar years in his NHL career, and if you've been anywhere near a radio or an internet connection with two bars or more, you've heard about what a terrible campaign his 2013-14 was.

ALAN BEN BRUCE CURTIS DB DEREK JEFF JON MICHAEL RYAN SCOTT ZSOLT
4 4 5 3 4 2 2 5 5 3 4 3

Previous Rank:  3

Please recall Scott's analysis of Jordan Eberle, who holds the fifth ranked spot on this version of the Top 25.

"Eberle is basically a known entity now.  He's in his prime"

Scott makes a pretty good point about the true value of Jordan Eberle.  You'll remember not long ago when Eberle popped off for 76 points, and how many people predicted that he'd reach the stratosphere with some ungodly point total in his first full season after the lockout.  Truth is, it's damn near impossible to keep shooting at 18.9%, and Eberle finished with 65 points last year.  And that's okay.  It's what Jordan Eberle is, and you're foolish if you look at a 60-65 point player and grimace.  It's just, that, he's not an 80 point player.  He is what he is.

Nail Yakupov turned 21 today, and while his 2013-14 campaign may have been less than what we all would've hoped for, there's plenty of good reason to believe that this year will see him turn around and take off.

This year is a critical season for Nail Yakupov, and I've got my money on him breaking out.

THE GOOD KIND OF REGRESSION

You'll hear "regression" an awful lot.  More often than not, 'regression' is used when talking about a player's production falling back to earth.

Last year wasn't much fun for a lot of players, Yakupov included.  By the time the first quarter of the season expired, the Oilers were sitting at an embarrassing four wins.  Yakupov was getting thrust around the lineup like a chew toy in a St. Bernard's mouth, and really, it's no surprise to be seeing a scorer struggle when he's getting scratched, or getting to play on a line with Luke Gazdic,  or when he's having a fairly public spat with the head coach, or when his agent says that he's open to a trade to 'any' team.

Call those excuses if you'd like, but the fact is that while all that was happening, the team was hot garbage for most of the year.  Yakupov's PDO finished at a garish 952 (third worst among Oiler forwards with 40+ games) and his on ice SV% finished at a cripplingly awful .879 (second worst among regulars).

So what?  Well, it's going to get better.  I can all but promise you.

Copper and Blue contributor Michael Parkatti compiled this handy chart of Yakupov's deployment in 2013-14.  He played at least eight games on every line.  That's kind of ridiculous.

The only consistency Nail Yakupov saw last year was him getting thrown around the lineup.  His play suffered.  When you're getting time along with Luke Gazdic, your numbers tumble.  A lot.  That's not rocket science.

WHO MIGHT YOU BE

I don't expect Yakupov to hang a 21% shooting percentage (remember about that kind of regression) like he did in his rookie campaign.  I do expect that with consistency in line deployment, him getting the luxury of getting somewhat familiar with his linemates (not throwing him on the fourth line or scratching him whenever the moon waxes or wanes) that his numbers will jump precipitously higher than the 24 points in 63 games that we saw this year.  The guy's a shooting wizard.  If he gets the puck, he's going to score. Let him play some rock and roll.

So, go all in on Yakupov.  It's a big year for him and the Oilers.  While the likelihood of the team missing the postseason for the ninth consecutive year is high, you should expect big things from Nail Yakupov in 2014-15.