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We’re into the Y’s on the season grade list, so that means it’s time for a season review and final grade for Nail Yakupov:
“Potential has a shelf life” – Margaret Atwood.
Last summer around this time, the Avalanche became the third – and quite possibly the final – NHL team to take a chance on the potential of Nail Yakupov. The first overall selection in the 2012 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Yakupov was given a one-year, $750,000 deal by Joe Sakic. It was hoped that what the Oilers and St. Louis Blues couldn’t do with the Russian winger, the Avs would. Namely, unlock all that potential.
It didn’t happen.
Well, in the early going, things actually went very well. Yak looked good in training camp, especially in the Burgundy-White game, skating on a line with Matt Duchene. On opening night in New York, he assisted on a goal in an Avs win over the Rangers. In Game 3, in Boston, he scored two goals. A game later, against the Bruins at home, he had a goal and assist. His stat line after the first four games: Three goals, two assists, plus-6.
In the next 54 games? Six goals, five assists, minus-4. A grand total, season stat line of 58 games, nine goals and seven assists. What happened?
Well, for one thing, Yak lost his linemate, Duchene, to that early-season trade. The two seemed to have some genuine chemistry together, but even in their last bunch of games together, Yak’s stats were already taking a plunge. Then, all the bad things you’d heard about his game started to become very evident. The defensive brain farts, the careless passes, the turnovers at the blue line, the poor offensive decisions – then, you saw what everyone was talking about. By April 1, after a game in Anaheim, he would not suit up for the Avs again. No action at all in the postseason.
It’s a shame, too, because he’s a likable young man with some serious skill handling a puck. Maybe there will be another team that takes another stab at harnessing that potential. But, for 2018-19 at least, it won’t be the Colorado Avalanche.
No question, it was that Oct. 9 game in Boston in which he scored twice in a victory over the Bruins. One of the goals was a sequence in which Yak beat Tuukka Rask to a loose puck by the left boards, then put it in the empty net from a tough angle. Hey, those two points would matter in the final scheme of things. The Avs only beat out the Blues for that final playoff spot by one point. So, it can’t be said that Yak did nothing for the Avs.
Yak signed a two-year deal recently with SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.
That’s probably a generous grade, but like I said yesterday with my grade of Colin Wilson, these are done somewhat on a curve when salary and expectations are taken fully into account. The Avs took a chance on him with a low-cost, one-year deal. It didn’t work out. There were a few good times, but overall, yeah…it just didn’t work out.