During his rookie campaign with the Edmonton Oilers in the shortened 2012-2013 season, Nail Yakupov scored seventeen goals and thirty-one points in all forty-eight games, finishing in 5th place in voting for the Calder Trophy. Last year, however, was a different story for the former 1st overall pick, as he only managed to score eleven goals and twenty-four points in sixty-three games.While those numbers aren’t exactly terrible, the 2013-2014 season can definitely be considered a ‘sophomore slump’ for the twenty-year-old Russian.
Part of Yakupov’s struggles last year might be attributed to the Oilers’ new head coach, Dallas Eakins. Part of Eakins’ approach to righting the ship in Edmonton is making sure that everyone on the ice is defensively responsible. Yakupov didn’t fit into this system too well last year, and as a result, he was scratched for multiple games. Yakupov is primarily an offensive player, and he is also still very young, so it isn’t shocking that his defensive skills aren’t amazing, but part of playing in the NHL means being good at both ends of the ice, and playing a two-hundred foot game is imperative to becoming a successful player.
Part of succeeding in the NHL is getting more ice time, and the way to do that in Edmonton is to prove that you are a defensively sound player. Nail Yakupov has to prove to his coaches that he can be trusted on the ice, and once he does that he can focus on offense. I believe that Yakupov will have a better season than he did last year, but I don’t think that he will put up amazing numbers yet. Yakupov is still young and has plenty of time to prove himself in the league. If he doesn’t have an amazing season this year, there’s nothing to worry about because I’m sure he will eventually find his niche in the league. I expect Nail Yakupov to be a thiry goal scorer by the time he is 23.