The Edmonton Oilers took Nail Yakupov with the top overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft.
Yakupov is an 18-year-old right winger who played for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.
He put in 31 goals and recorded 38 assists in 42 appearances for Sarnia this past season. His production and talent made him most experts' top-ranked prospect leading up to the draft.
There was a chance the Oilers would pass up on Yakupov due to his Russian ties and the team’s need for a blueliner. Yakupov was born in the Republic of Tatarstan, a Russian federal subject, and many teams fear that prospects from Russia will leave the NHL for the Kontinental Hockey League.
Yakupov calmed these concerns by saying, “I say just what I feel inside and I say I want to play in the NHL. It’s not my deal what teams think, if they don’t trust me or not. I want to play in NHL,” per Associated Press writer Will Graves on NationalPost.com.
The Oilers needed a defenseman badly, and Ryan Murray is one of the highest-rated players in the draft.
But, talent should always trump need for the top overall pick, and the Oilers took the right player.
At 5’11” and 190 pounds, Yakupov is crafty and an extremely skilled point-producer who can add flare to their attack. Experts have compared him to both Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Oilers finished with the second-worst record in the league last season with 74 points. They were tied for 19th with 2.52 goals per game.
Yakupov will help the team improve both of those marks in the future.