- Day 10: Nail Yakupov, LW, 1NA
Barring an unexpected turn of events, the Edmonton Oilers will use their first overall draft choice to select Sarnia Sting right-winger Nail Yakupov.
There is little doubt Yakupov, who scored 80 goals in 107 games with the Sting has elite NHL skills. His is a trifle small at five-foot-10 but weighs in the high 190s. His skating is superb, he has an inexhaustible thirst for goalscoring and has an elite NHL shot.
Yakupov was a force in the World Junior under 18 tournament and scored a hat trick in the bronze medal game.
As with every player, there are concerns. Yakupov didn’t score in the world juniors although he contributed nine assists in seven games.
He ditched the CHL top prospects game and was suspended for two games. A high hit knocked him out of his last three regular season Sting games and the first two of the team’s first-round playoff and he missed a substantial amount of time to a knee injury.
He had an unexceptional playoff for Sarnia with two goals and five assists in four games.
Still, none of those quibbles should keep him from the top of the class. Despite the ups and downs of the season, Yakupov was never displaced in any ranking of the top prospects.
Yakupov said he has been influenced by Canadian hockey.
“When I was younger, four or five years ago, we played the national team in Canada, they showed us how to play hard, forecheck, backcheck. They were very strong.”
“Everyone wants to be first at the draft,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”