Nail Yakupov - Sarnia Sting
5'11" - 170 lbs
D.O.B. Oct 6, 1993
A late '93 birthdate, you wonder where Yakupov would go in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft had he been born 21 days earlier.
Without question, he'd be mentioned in the same breath as the Larsson's, Nugent-Hopkins', Landeskog's and Couturier's. But, he's in the 2012 Entry Draft and has to be the early favorite to go number one overall when June 2012 rolls around.
Playing on the Western Conference 9th place team in Sarnia makes what Yakupov did in the 2010-11 OHL season even more amazing. Yakupov finished tops in rookie scoring with 17 more points than his team mate Alex Galchenyuk. He finished 4th overall in OHL points with 101 points, just 7 of the pace set by Tyler Toffoli and Jason Akeson, with fewer games played. He finished third in goals with 49 behind Toffoli and Christian Thomas, fifth in powerplay goals with 16, and second in rookie assists behind Mark Scheifele (2011).
Yakupov's skating and speed are compared to a former great Russian in Pavel Bure. Is hockey IQ is off the charts as he can single handedly make everyone on his team look and be much better while at the same time taking the opposition down a notch. He's sneaky and gets open with ease while at the same time is able to find open team mates at will. He has soft hands and controls the puck effortlessly, while possessing an NHL calibre shot.
Don't let his size fool you either. Yakupov doesn't shy away from the physical game. He's not afraid to take a hit to make a play and he's willing to dish it out as well. His 71 penalty minutes in 2010-11 are an indication he's not shy.
The lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation shouldn't prevent teams from selecting Yakupov number one, the first Russian since Alexander Ovechkin in 2004 to do so and only the third ever (Ilya Kovalchuk in 2001). The fact that he came to Canada to play in the OHL is proof enough that he wants to play with the best.
Yakupov was the second player selected in the CHL Import Draft in 2010 behind Slovak defenseman Martin Marincin who was chosen by Prince George Cougars and was also selected by the Edmonton Oilers 46th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Yakupov won Rookie of the Month honors four times in October, January, February and March. He won the Emms Family Award as Rookie of the year and was named to the All Rookie Team. He also broke Steve Stamkos' franchise record for goals and points by a rookie.
Yakupov played for Team Russia at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka tournament and the squad finished with a disappointing 0-1-1-1 record in the preliminary round before beating Finland 5-4 to take fifth place. He also played on the 2009 squad recording 3 goals and 2 assists in helping the Russians to a silver medal.
He also played for Team Russia in 2010 in the Subway Super Series again the CHL All Stars. He played one game against the OHL all stars - a 4-0 loss.
Yakupov played for Team Russia in the IIHF World Under 18 Championships where Russia won the Bronze medal defeating Canada in the third place game. Yakupov had 6 goals and 7 assists in in the tournament.