Nail Yakupov is the latest 1st overall draft to join the Edmonton Oilers. At draft time, I was a proponent of drafting Ryan Murray in hopes that the Oilers would start shaping its defense. Instead the Oilers took the high-flying, sharpshooting winger from Russia. The Oilers are blessed with offensive talents on the wing. Yakupov has many offensive talents packed into his stout frame. The Oilers can use him in either a playmaking or shooting role meaning he can play either the left wing or the right wing. Yakupov will add an offensive element to the club, but won’t add to the defensive woes the team has.
I’m envisioning a superline of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov. Hall attacking off the rush, Nugent-Hopkins being the olive branch distributing pucks to the goal scorers, and Yakupov being the triggerman. Of course, Ralph Krueger may have different plans on how to deploy his forwards, but even this line has me a little “giddy” and I don’t get “giddy” very easily. At some point, I see this line being put together.
Yakupov is a piece to the puzzle, but in no way should be considered to be the “savior” of the hockey club. Yakupov has his warts like a lot of gifted, offensive players do. But he is dynamic, and is another one shot scorer the Oilers like to covet. It will be interesting to see how Krueger places all of his young forwards in positions to succeed while helping the team win games.
If I Could Grant One Wish – Experience: Let’s face it, we all want these kids to grow up as fast as possible and help this team win immediately. Yet, these players need to grow as people and as hockey players, mentally and physically. Yakupov is starting from the bottom rung once he hits the pros. His skills are undeniable, but they still need to be refined to suit the pro game. Mistakes will be made, feathers will be ruffled, lessons will be learned. All in all, he is a good kid and his heart is in the right place, but to become a superstar, you have to act like you have been there before, and these are the things Yakupov will learn on his trek. These things will take time.
Prediction for 2013 – Will lead NHL rookies in goals: The formula is there for this to happen. The keys will be Yakupov’s attitude and Krueger’s deployment. If Krueger decides to have a “guns ablazin'” line, the numbers will be there for Yakupov to take. If he feels that he should be broken in like a normal rookie, well then the numbers will show that. If the Oilers want wins, then they are going to need goals and Yakupov can help on that front. Yakupov also needs to be committed to the cause by showing up in shape, being an attentive pupil and taking whatever is given to him. No need to start on a sour note. All in all, the Oilers need Yakupov’s skills but they don’t need the drama.