The Colorado Avalanche announced yesterday, July 4th, 2017 that they have come to an agreement with former 1st overall pick Nail Yakapov. Yakapov was a very highlight touted prospected his draft year and never quite lived up to the potential that he had with the Edmonton Oilers. To be fair not many top overall picks lived up to their potential for the Oilers over recent years until they ended up picking up generational talent Connor McDavid. Yakapov then was moved to the St Louis Blues. Is this a good signing or a bad one? We will break down both sides of the argument here and then let you as a fan make your decision on whether it was a good low risk/potentially high reward deal or if it was just another lateral move that doesn’t make much sense. I know what I feel it is, but I am interested to see what you think so please let me know what you think after reading both sides of the argument. Let’s jump right in with the reasons that this is a bad pickup.
Reasons why Signing Nail Yakupov was a bad idea
Nail Yakapov while being a dynamic player offensively in the OHL, scoring 49 goals and 52 assists for a total of 101 points in 65 games played in his first year in the OHL, then putting up 31 goals and 38 assists for 69 points in 42 games his second season in the OLH. His highest point total he has hit at the NHL level was 33 points (14 goals and 19 assists) in 81 games in the 2014-2015 season. He has failed to score even 20 goals once in his now 5 year NHL career and looks to be a player that has fallen a long way from his days of absolute dominance of the OHL. Not only are his scoring numbers down by a ton since hitting the NHL but so are his PIMs. While you do not want a player to rack up a ton of PIMS a player like Yakapov who plays very physically and a solid in your face style game when he is engaged and playing his game has had between 14 and 24 PIMs in all NHL seasons except one where he had 36. Another knock on him statistically speaking is that he has bee a horrible defensive player as far as the plus-minus statistical categories go he was a -35, -33, -4, -16 and -3 in his NHL seasons to this point.
There are many reasons to think that this guy is just, unfortunately, for everyone in the NHL not ever going to be the kind of player that he looked a sure fire lock to be when he was drafted. He was the kind of player that many hockey fans regardless of their favorite team were extremely excited to see hit the NHL and show us all what magic he could bring to a franchise and the league as a whole. Thought of as potentially the “next one” after Crosby at one point by many he now is just another 23-year-old player who to this point has not been able to really get his traction in the league or show us what he was thought to be capable of doing.
Now that we have got all Avalanche fans and Yakapov fans depressed and sad let’s take a look at why the Avalanche are making a good decision in picking up this kid
First of all, let’s start this by reiterating that Nail Yakupov is 23 years old. No, he is not 30, he is not even 25 yet, he is a 23-year-old player. This means many things but biggest of all is that most NHL hockey players do not hit their prime years and play at their best ability in the NHL until 25-29 as a general rule. There are always exceptions to any rule and occasionally a generational talent or a guy who just never can do better as he learns and develops comes along, but for the sake of this section, it’s important to remember he’s 23 years old. Not only is he 23 years old but he has 5 years of NHL experience already to this point as well as some KHL experience when he spent some time playing professionally there in the 2012-2013 season.
Let’s look at his numbers before he was drafted again. In 2 seasons in the OHL for the Sarnia Sting Nail played in 87 total games and he scored 80 goals in those 87 games and he scored 90 assists in that time as well for a total of 170 points in those 87 games. A player doesn’t just luck into scoring just 4 points shy of averaging 2 points per game over 2 full seasons in the OHL. He has got skill talent and ability there is no question there. So why has it not translated or worked in the NHL to this point? Most recently he was traded to the St. Louis Blues this last NHL season 2016-2017. He scored 9 points in that time in 40 games. That doesn’t look too promising but when you look at the fact that he only played in 40 games total for the Blues in 82 regular season games plus playoff games and realize that he was not hurt during the season it starts to paint another picture. Nail was never left in the lineup long enough to generate any chemistry or learn how the new team or teammates wanted to play in my personal opinion. He was 22 and had played for 1 team his entire NHL career to that point. It is a lot to ask of a player that is young to come in and learn a whole new system and new linemates etc. especially when he is in and out of the lineup every few games. As far as why it didn’t work with the Oilers well, what did work for the Oilers prior to getting McDavid? Let’s face it, not much. They won the Draft Lotto numerous times winning the #1 overall pick multiple times in a span of 6 years and they still were a basement dwelling team. Not all of that can be put on Nail.
Most recently he was traded to the St. Louis Blues this last NHL season 2016-2017. He scored 9 points in that time in 40 games. That doesn’t look too promising but when you look at the fact that he only played in 40 games total for the Blues in 82 regular season games plus playoff games and realize that he was not hurt during the season it starts to paint another picture. Nail was never left in the lineup long enough to generate any chemistry or learn how the new team or teammates wanted to play in my personal opinion. He was 22 and had played for 1 team his entire NHL career to that point. It is a lot to ask of a player that is young to come in and learn a whole new system and new linemates etc. especially when he is in and out of the lineup every few games. As far as why it didn’t work with the Oilers well, what did work for the Oilers prior to getting McDavid? Let’s face it, not much. They won the Draft Lotto numerous times winning the #1 overall pick multiple times in a span of 6 years and they still were a basement dwelling team. Not all of that can be put on Nail.
What does Yakupov’s agent think about this all?
Igor Larionov, yes, that very same Larionov that Avalanche fans may remember hating years ago when the rivalry between the Avalanche and Red Wings was one of the best rivalries in sports history. He is now the player agent for many NHL players including Nail Yakupov whom he personally helped negotiate the deal with the Avalanche for. He is confident that having a 1 year “Show me” deal is exactly what his client needs to start to live up to that potential. He believes that the Avalanche is the right spot for his client and here is a quote that he gave to BSN Avalanche about the plan for Nail in Colorado.
“Nail is very happy to sign with Colorado. He’s going to prove he can be a very effective player still in this league. When I talked with (Sakic), the plan is for him to be a top-six winger. I think he can and will score 20-25 goals.”
Here are some more thoughts that he gave BSN Avalanche about Nail and his potential future in the league and why Colorado is a good fit for him.
“He could have taken a lot more money and gone back to Russia in the KHL. But he wants to show he belongs in the NHL. That’s why he is doing this. I think a team like Colorado will be good for him. He’s a young guy still and Colorado wants to get younger and faster. Maybe there will be less pressure on him than before. It’s up to him, obviously. But I think if the coaching staff really works with him, they will find he’s eager to learn and be better.”
Here is The Hockey New’s Player Forecaster on Yakupov
|Has phenomenal sniping ability, great puck skills and the speed to be a constant scoring threat from the wing position. Can also set up his linemates well when teams bear down on him.|
|Struggles in the defensive zone and lacks awareness when not on the attack. Lacks optimum size (5-11, 195 pounds) and strength. Takes some shifts off and lacks consistency in a big way.|
|Inconsistent, speedy scoring winger with a little upside.|
Here are Hockey’s Future’s thoughts on Yakupov (Prospect Talent Score 9.0)
“Yakupov is a pure goal-scorer with great hands, quick feet, and great natural hockey sense. Prior to his NHL debut here was concern about Yakupov’s ability as a playmaker and being more of a pure finisher than someone who involves his linemates, but he proved to be a solid team player who adjusted well to the NHL atmosphere. Although not overly big at 5’11 and sometimes prone to injury, Yakupov showed no signs of struggle in his big league debut.”
Draft Year Highlight Video
NHL Highlight Video
What conclusions do you come to when looking at all sides of this 23-year-old player? Do you think that he still has a chance to live up to some of that potential and skill that has been locked away since he got to the NHL? Do you think that its a waste of time to mess around with him and that the Avalanche made the wrong call here? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to vote in the poll as we would love to hear your thoughts in this intriguing situation and the player that is Nail Yakupov.