As Steve Kournianos’ report today reminds me, Nail Yakupov – 2012 first-overall draft pick for the Edmonton Oilers – signed with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg last week. I hope he does well. For some reason – and who knows why some fans gravitate to some players – I always really liked and rooted for Yakupov. I wanted him to become a great Oiler. But, a career that started well never really materialized. Too bad I say, because for all I see, he was a nice young man who wanted to do well and tried hard.
During Yakupov’s rookie season in 2012-13 he scored 31 points in 48 games (it was the season of the strike). And, although he never scored much after that, he still tried – at least, from what I could see. He buzzed and skated in ways other players seemed unable to mimic. In Steve Kournianos’ report, he wonders if the Oilers failed Yakupov, or if Yakupov failed himself. He concludes, I think, that it was a mix of both. Honestly, I am more of a fan than an analyst – so I don’t know.
Still, other teams he played for didn’t keep him either. So, he clearly wasn’t wanted and went to his home country of Russia recently when he had the chance. As I say, I hope he succeeds there. I am sure that, as a young boy, he dreamed of playing big-time hockey. And, like so many other young boys, his dreams weren’t realized. Too bad, really. As a teacher, I don’t like it when that happens to nice kids – but in hockey and in life that often is the way it goes.
That’s it. I have little more to say. I was a fan, but I will find another young lad to root for along the way. I will miss his smile and way of playing. For anyone who cares, I suggest you read Steve Kournianos’ thoughtful review of Yakupov’s career. It is well written.