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Nail Yakupov: What Hockey Experts Think of Top Prospect in 2012 NHL Draft

CALGARY, CANADA - JANUARY 5:  Nail Yakupov #10 of Team Russia waits for a face-off during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal game against Team Sweden at the Scotiabank Saddledome on January 5, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Team Sweden defeated Team Russia 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Nicholas GossCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2016

Nail Yakupov is the top North American prospect in the 2012 NHL draft class, according to Central Scouting, and he's created a lot of buzz over the last few months.

There are varying opinions on the Sarnia Sting star, with some experts thinking he's a can't-miss prospect, while others are not sure he is destined to be a franchise player.

Let's look at what some experts are saying about Yakupov.

Former NHL star Igor Larionov talked about Yakupov and the Oilers in a recent piece from NHL.com:

To me, I would go for Nail to get that whole lineup of great players for the next 10-plus years with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov. I know it's a tough decision, but if I were GM, I would take Nail and enjoy this young group grow and develop for many years.

It would be like [Mark] Messier, Jari Kurri and [Wayne] Gretzky all over again. Another generation of great players…it would be fantastic to see the new Oilers of a new era with that talent and speed.

Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal shared a tweet comparing Yakupov and former Sarnia Sting star Steven Stamkos. Yakupov played for the Sting this season:

Steven Stamkos, two OHL seasons w/ Sarnia, 1.5887 PTS/GM. Nail Yakupov, two OHL seasons w/ Sarnia, 1.5888 PTS/GM. Seriously.

— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) June 14, 2012

 

Hockey scout Matt Moran talked to Yahoo's Buzzing the Net blog about Yakupov's skating ability:

Yakupov's skating is unrivaled in this year's draft. He is blessed with a powerful stride and incredible four-way mobility that makes him a threat to score every time he touches the puck...

Dave Staples of the Edmonton Journal wrote a piece on Yakupov and included the perspective of TSN's Bob McKenzie:

Hockey draft insider Bob McKenzie, who regularly surveys scouts for their opinions on draft-eligible players, says that Nail Yakupov’s stock has dropped a bit with some scouts after his playoff performance. Some no longer see the young Russian as a can’t miss franchise player.

Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette talked about Yakupov's versatility in a recent article:

Yakupov is a right-winger, but shoots left, which is not unusual for a Russian player. He has also played left wing and centre in the past, and wouldn’t resist a change.

 

My Take

The typical stereotypes surrounding Russian players are unfair and shouldn't apply at all to Nail Yakupov. He is a top talent and someone who wants to get better. That kind of attitude is what you need in a young player. There's no question that he's the best pick for Edmonton.

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