Earlier in the week Nail Yakupov was declared ineligible by the IIHF to play for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL, but as of late last night, he has been cleared to head back to his home club in the KHL, leaving the Sarnia Sting of the OHL out in the cold again.
The debate I am having in my own mind is where should he play? What route would be better for his own development? On one hand, the KHL is a men’s league with many of the best European players playing in it as well as some former and current NHLers. The problem lies in the amount of icetime he is likely getting in the KHL with many pros taking up valuable roster spots over there. Is he really learning anything by playing 8-12 minutes a night? Sure it’s good to be around character pros as a long they don’t lead him down the path of ruins. I guess for Yakupov the experience is more of an off ice education as opposed to being thrown in fire and asked to survive.
Sarnia offers something different for Yakupov. While the level of competition is obviously inferior, essentially it is men against boys, Yakupov having another stint in Sarnia can help Yakupov develop a team mindset. Yakupov has not had a lot of team success early on in his career and him showing some dedication to helping Sarnia’s cause would help Sarnia immediately and it would help Yakupov down the line. Winning at the highest of levels isn’t easy and it would give Yakupov something to draw back on down the line, in case some tough times may be in Yakupov’s way.
I’m guessing Nail Yakupov and his advisors have debated this for many hours. Yakupov seems dedicated to play in the highest league he possibly can and who can fault him for that. But sometimes less is more. Would he rather be a down the roster type on a pro club or the superstar on a junior club. I guess we have our answers and I can’t fault him for choosing the direction, but I feel he is leaving something on the table by not playing for Sarnia.