Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012, came on the scene with high hopes for a struggling Oilers squad. That rookie season came with promise. He finished the season with 31 points in 48 games and looked to be what they hoped they drafted. Rough around the edges but with under 50 games played, hardly a cause for concern.
The next two seasons, however, didn't prove to back that up. A combined -68 plus/minus and only 57 points in 144 games, he was struggling and fighting for playing time. With a new coaching staff juggled in between that, Yakupov looked like a shell of his former self. The "Russian Effect" seemed more and more immanent and the thought of him fleeing for the KHL seemed almost certain.
Fast forward to this season. Insert the rookie phenom, first overall pick and hockey prodigy Connor McDavid. Todd McLellan, the newest bench boss in Edmonton, put Yakupov on McDavid's wing and the pair seemed to gel. A few slow games to start but they played a better 200 feet. The Connor McDavid effect has now put Yakupov as a +1 with 10 points in 13 games. The two of them, combined with the first line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisait, have put Edmonton in an upward swing. Finally collecting wins and looking more and more competitive.
Last night against the Philadelphia Flyers, Connor McDavid lost an edge and piled into the boards, leading to his removal of the game holding his shoulder. How this will effect the Oilers and Nail Yakupov has yet to be seen but it's not a good sign.
Nail was finally looking like he'd found a place, hopefully his increased confidence will carry over and he can stay on the upwards climb in McDavid's absence. Nail is averaging a career high in shots on goal per game at just over two and a half. With his worst shooting percentage at 5.9 percent, most of his points have been assists.
Not known as a playmaker, the piggy backing points could be a real concern. Just because he looks like he's playing better, doesn't mean he is. McDavid carries the second line and Yakupov will feel his absence. With Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle injured as well, it's going to be rocky times for the Oilers.