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#6 - Nail Yakupov

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Yakupov slides in at number 6 on the Top 25 Under 25

This is the year that Yakupov blows the doors off.  At least, that's how I've got it written down.
This is the year that Yakupov blows the doors off. At least, that's how I've got it written down.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Yakupov takes a tumble down to number six in this incarnation of the Top 25. Let's go to the scorecard to see where everyone ranked him.

Ryan Scott Ben Shona Zach Jeff Matt Curtis Zsolt Sunil
7 7 6 7 7 4 6 5 5 7

Previous Rank: 3

I've got him ranked as the Oilers' fourth top prospect under 25, which is a bit ahead of everyone else.  The soon-to-be 22 year former first overall draft pick has yet to produce numbers that light up a scoreboard.  What's preventing him from busting the doors off?  Shouldn't this guy have like 400 points a year already?

HIGH HOPES

Yakupov was a somewhat controversial pick at number 1. In 2012, Edmonton opted for Yakupov instead of defenceman Ryan Murray, which didn't quite make sense to a lot of minds due to the fact that the Oilers' defence was a pile of sprockets and gunk.  Yakupov had a successful rookie campaign during the lockout shortened season, posting 31 points in 48 games.  He also shot a monstrous 21% on the year, which meant that he'd need to shoot the puck a whole lot more over the next season in order to keep those numbers up.  Steadily, Yakupov's shot totals have climbed since his rookie campaign, but his point total has yet to catch fire.  He's scored 88 points total in his three years as an Oiler. What's holding him back?

SLUNG THROUGH THE MUD

It should go without saying that Yakupov would like to forget his time with Dallas Eakins.  In 2013-14, Yakupov was demoted, scratched, and when he did play, his ice time was often greatly diminished.  Yakupov certainly had issues when he played without the puck, and his defence could have used a couple of screwdrivers and a wrench.  But, ask yourself this question:  Why was Nail Yakupov drafted first overall in 2012?  It certainly wasn't to penalty kill, and it certainly wasn't for a physical presence.  Dude's here for one reason and one reason only, and that's to put the puck in the net.   Putting him on the fourth line or taking him off the power play isn't going to get you what you're looking for.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Please recall the moment where the Edmonton Oilers acquired Derek Roy from the Nashville Predators midway through the 2014-15 NHL season. Shortly after the Oilers acquired Roy, you saw glimpses of a refreshed Yakupov.

"I feel amazing now...I was waiting for a centre for three years.  It's the first time I've had a really good centre and I'm really happy for it"

Source

That's it?  All it took was Derek Roy?  A centre who had literally been on five different teams spanning three seasons before coming to the Oilers?  Derek Roy's first game in an Oiler sweater was on December 30th, 2014.  Yakupov was 10-15-25 during the second half of last season, a sharp uptick from the mere eight points he accrued through the first three months of the season without a consistent centre on his line.

Unfortunately for Derek Roy, it doesn't look like he'll be around for Oilers Reboot v. 4.0:  We're Super Serious This Time For Real You Guys.  If you're Nail Yakupov, you've got to be salivating to get the chance to play with Connor McDavid, something he'll have a very real shot at doing in just under a month.  If getting significant time with Connor McDavid doesn't get Nail Yakupov on the scoreboard, then I'll start pulling fire alarms.  I'll go ahead and assume that if things don't go right in the first four games of the year that new bench boss Todd McLellan won't go tossing Yakupov onto the fourth line with Rob Klinkhammer, or banishing him to the press box with some generic hockey cliché tightly in hand.

Yakupov is about to enter the first year of a sensible two year bridge deal with an AAV of 2.5MM.  Give him consistency, wind him up, and watch him go.