Nail Yakupov has signed a two-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg, a KHL (Russian league) team. He was drafted first overall in the 2012 draft by the Edmonton Oilers and, following a four-year stint with the team, he was traded to the St. Louis Blues, after which he signed a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
Yakupov started out his NHL career strong. His first season in the league was the 2012-2013 lockout season and he scored 17 goals and had 14 assists for a total of 31 points in 48 games. Unfortunately, 17 goals in one season was his career high. Since then, he never performed at the same level. With St. Louis, he only had 3 goals and 6 assists in 40 games. He was a healthy scratch for a good chunk of games and had an injury that shortened his season.
The following summer, St. Louis did not give Yakupov a qualifying offer, leading him to become an unrestricted free agent. He signed with the Colorado Avalanche for a one-year contract and, like with St. Louis, he was given limited ice time, garnering only 9 goals and 7 assists in 58 games.
Many call Yakupov a bust, but it’s hard to truly determine his value when he spent his prime years playing for a barely-hanging-in-there Edmonton team. When he was traded to St. Louis, it was a clean start. But with the constant healthy scratches, he didn’t have enough ice time to really prove himself.
Playing in the KHL will likely prove to be a good decision for Yakupov. He can get the playing time he needs and further develop his game. He’s only 24 years old so he has a lot of hockey ahead of him. In two years time, he might be back in the NHL and better than ever.