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Sunday, January 30, 2011

2012 draft watch: Nail Yakupov

Boston Bruins fans are probably a little spoiled now after two years of having a shot at a pick at the top of the 2010 and 2011 NHL Entry Drafts.

That's why Sarnia Sting superstar Nail Yakupov isn't likely to factor in many draft conversations the B's have next season.

That said, there's no reason not to bring you up to speed on the immensely skilled Russian winger and candidate for 1st overall selection in the 2012 draft. As an early October, 1993 birthdate, he missed the cutoff for the 2011 class by less than a month, and according to at least one NHL scout I talked to recently, he'd be a surefire top-three pick this year. The only thing stopping him from being the declarative 1st overall selection in June would be his status as a Russian, and even that may not hinder a team with the boldness and faith in him to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

"Yakupov is a game breaker," the NHL scout said earlier this week. "He's got a lot of speed, agility and can make all his moves when going balls out. He's got a natural knack for scoring and is a threat to score every single time he's out there. The defense is only so-so, but when you're talking about a player as dangerous as he is, you can live with that."

An outstanding skater, he's got a very fast burst and not only the top speed you want in your skill forwards, but the shifty, elusive east-west movement that make him very tough for defenders to contain. Although only 5-10, he's so quick that the size isn't an issue. When you hear scouts and hockey people talk about small players needing certain skating chops to alleviate concerns about them at the NHL level, Yakupov is the prototype player they're referring to.

His quick hands, dazzling puck skills and the ability to dangle allow him to create space for himself, and he's got the creativity to score by himself or set teammates up for quality chances. He's one of those guys who makes everyone around him better. 35 goals and 69 points in 45 OHL games as a 17-year-old...that's all you really need to know. He and countryman Alex Galchenyuk have formed a dynamic duo for the Sting, with the centerman Galchenyuk a few weeks away from turning 17 himself, having more size but less pure skill and upside than Yakupov. Regardless, he looks like a solid 1st-rounder in 2012.

Here are some videos on this guy, which seem to illustrate the classic "you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him" sports axiom:

Here, he abuses 3rd overall pick in 2010 Erik Gudbranson for a goal vs. Kingston:

And not that he's good at it, but he drops the gloves here, which shows a competitiveness and drive every NHL team covets:

First career OHL goal...he's got 35 and counting as of this post:

Video rights belong to/courtesy of OHL/TVCogeco Ontario


  1. Have had the pleasure of watching him several times. Unbelievable things he is doing in the OHL.

    Has to be the unanimous choice for frontrunner right now.

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