Nail Yakupov is heading to the KHL. While most will rip the 2012 No. 1 overall pick, this fan has fond memories of Yakupov.
Nail Yakupov’s time in the NHL is done for now. According to TSN, the first overall pick in 2012 has signed a two-year deal with KHL club SKA St. Petersburg.
Yakupov scored 136 points in 350 career games with the Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche. After scoring 17 goals in his rookie season with Edmonton, Yakupov’s production dipped in every season after. Last year with the Avalanche, he scored nine goals and 16 points in 58 games. He was routinely a healthy scratch in his final season in Edmonton and his two seasons with the Blues and Avalanche.
Watching Yakupov was a frustrating experience. After their abysmal 2016-17 season, Colorado had nothing to lose by signing the then 23-year-old former No. 1 overall pick. His heavy shot and speed made you think he was the best offensive player on the ice. But he lack of puck control, hockey sense, and defense made you understand why he could barely crack the lineup.
With the Avalanche, he seemed to be a good presence in the locker room. He was routinely seen laughing and joking with teammates. A smile rarely left his face. He was voted “Best Teammate” by Avs fans during their summer social media awards.
A two year stint in the KHL may do him some good. He had 18 points in 22 KHL games during the 2012-13 NHL lockout. If he’s able to show some scoring consistency, another NHL team will likely give him a shot two summers from now. The talent is unquestionably there and he’s a good fit in the locker room. It’s just a matter of him finding a way to put it all together on a night-to-night basis instead of month-to-month.
Farewell for now, Mr. Yakupov. You’ll be criticized for being arguably the worst No. 1 overall pick in NHL history. But it’s not your fault Edmonton selected you over Ryan Murray.