While the 2012 NHL Entry Draft had many surprises, the Edmonton Oilers selecting right wing Nail Yakupov of the OHL's Sarnia Sting with the No. 1 overall pick was not surprising in the least.
Sure, there were rumors that the Oilers wanted to trade out of the No. 1 pick, or that they were going to draft Ryan Muray with the No. 1 pick and address their huge needs on defense. At the end of the day, however, the Oilers could not pass on the highly skilled Yakupov.
Yakupov was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in just about every mock draft there was leading into the actual draft, and for good reason.
With an undeniable blend of skill, physicality and finishing ability, Yakupov really looks like a can't miss prospect. He possesses one of the best one-timers I have seen in a very long time. And he is absolutely lethal when it is just he and the goalie one-on-one.
In looking at his profile on thehockeywriters.com, many prominent scouts had nothing but great things to say about Yakupov.
"Yakupov is a gifted goal scoring forward, something that really doesn’t seem to come around that often, so when one does he is a hot commodity," said Head Scout Ross MacLean of International Scouting Services.
"Nail is arguably the best prospect available in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft for several reasons. First and foremost is his skating. He maintains a low centre of gravity, great strength in his lower body and his quick footwork allows his first few steps to be very strong, giving him exceptional acceleration... He can explode on the outside, but also has excellent lateral agility and can go outside/inside better than most players in the CHL... The release on his shot is powerful and accurate, none more so than his one-timer. Goaltenders simply need to hope that the puck hits him, because when he connects it’s just a blur."
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards had similar praise for Yakupov:
"His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft, in my opinion. He really gets up to top speed very quickly and his hands are outstanding. Like Pavel Bure, Yakupov is dangerous every shift."
In his two years with the Sarnia Sting, Yakupov's numbers certainly supported his being considered the No. 1 overall prospect.
In 2010-11, he led his team and Ontario Hockey League rookies in scoring with 101 points (49-52—101) in 65 games.
This past season, he had 69 points in only 42 games.
Internationally, Yakupov played in the 2012 World Junior Championships where he tied for the tournament lead with nine assists.
In the 2011 Wold Under-18 Championships, Yakupov was a key reason that the Russians won a bronze medal, including scoring a hat trick in the bronze medal game.
By all accounts and indications, Nail Yakupov should have a stellar NHL career.
But just how good a career will he have?
Let's pull out our crystal ball and make five bold predictions for the career of this year's No. 1 overall draft pick, Nail Yakupov.