MONTREAL, QC — Welcome to the Nail Yakupov show! At least that is what the OHL color commentators say every time Yakupov dazzles the crowd with an astounding array of skill and speed that often ends up with a puck in the back of the net.
Born in Nizhnekamsk Russia, Nail was drafted second overall by the Sarnia Sting in the 2010 Canadian Hockey League import draft and has since then caught the eye of every scout and general manager in the NHL.
Nail Yakupov is a physical beast — while he may not be the tallest, or the strongest, the way he carries himself on the ice is nothing short of spectacular. Yakupov has shown that he can blaze through defenders with blinding velocity forcing fans not to blink for they might miss what comes next. He can cut through the middle like a hot knife through butter and for that half second simultaneously bring the arena occupants to a breathless moment when he unleashes a rocket of a wrist shot past the netminder.
Yakupov possesses elite level passing, skating and scoring ability which makes him the best player in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. Scouts consider him a blue chip prospect who will likely translate to an impact player on the NHL level. What compliments Yakupov’s exciting style of play is his physicality, and while he is not a large physical specimen, weighing in at five foot eleven, one hundred and ninety pounds; he is strong on his feet as he can both take abuse as well as reciprocate it.
Yakupov’s reckless style of play is both his strength and his weakness as many scouts are a bit skeptical that his game will translate to the NHL properly; some feel he may have to tone it down a notch and play more of a speed game, and less of a physical style that ends up throwing himself in front of the net. Yakupov’s approach to the game and his small stature have some scouts questioning Nail’s ability to handle the physical wear and tear of the NHL, making him prone to injury.
The young Russian forward is endowed with all the tools to become a successful superstar at the NHL level, and some scouts have hinted that he may even reach the 100 point mark a few times in his career. With comparisons raining down on him such as the next Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, or Pavel Bure, Yakupov still has steps to take to reach stardom, but the jury seems to agree that whichever team drafts him, they will be receiving a top notch franchise winger for the future.
It won’t be long before we hear the likes of Gord Miller, Bob Cole, or even Pierre Houde shouting what the OHL commentators have been shouting for the last two years “Welcome to the Nail Yakupov show!”