Nail Yakupov's Potential Outweighs the Risk of Him Leaving for KHL

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJune 22, 2012

Photo Credit: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald
Photo Credit: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

Leading up to the 2012 NHL draft, Russian prospect Nail Yakupov has assured everyone that he won't bolt for the fast-rising Kontinental Hockey League down the line.

Then again, there is still the possibility, given several big names have opted for the KHL over the NHL in the last few years.

That has at least given some NHL teams pause for thought heading into Friday's first round. Yakupov is widely considered to be the best prospect in the draft, but that won't matter if he doesn't stay in America.

Nonetheless, you can't worry about what might happen down the road when you have a prospect like Yakupov, especially in a draft that doesn't figure to produce many superstars. 

The 18-year-old projects to be an elite scorer in the pros. Two years ago, he had no problem posting 101 points for Sarnia in the OHL, including 49 goals. Last season, he hardly blinked in his transition to major junior, becoming the fifth rookie in 15 years to earn over 100 points.

He's not being compared to Alex Ovechkin just because he's Russian; he truly has comparable skills, and it's scary to think of where he could be in a couple years when he fills out some more.

Prospects like Yakupov don't come around very often. It's actually ironic that he sits in a draft class that isn't particularly spectacular; it's almost as if he doesn't belong. 

Who knows if the top prospect in the draft will head overseas to the KHL? That will be discovered in due time. But one thing's for sure: teams shouldn't pass up on the electric scorer just because they fear the unknown. He's one of few can't-miss prospects this year. 


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