The career of Nail Yakupov got off to a rocky start. Due to his slow progression, the Edmonton Oilers have finally decided to move on from Yakupov by trading him to the St. Louis Blues. The trade shouldn’t surprise anyone, and it might turn out to be beneficial to Yakupov.
Taken as the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Yakupov was one of many young prospects the Oilers featured on their roster. Over recent drafts, Edmonton acquired Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Connor McDavid. All were top-three picks. Yakupov never really hit his stride with the team, making him the least successful out of all the Oilers top selections.
Yakupov struggled mightily over his first four NHL seasons. His season high for points stands at a disappointing 33, which he recorded during the 2014-15 season when he was 21. Yakupov was given every opportunity to succeed with Edmonton. He played on lines with all of the aforementioned Oilers top picks, but could never reach elite status.
It’s a not a significant loss for Edmonton because they weren’t getting much production from Yakupov anyway. And as a result of his departure, the Oilers can now feel free to move up 2016 4th overall pick, Jesse Puljujärvi, to a more prominent role on the roster
The more important part of the trade is how does it affect Yakupov? Going to St. Louis means he’s headed to a potential playoff contender. The opportunity to succeed is much higher there than it was in Edmonton.
Yakupov will probably be slated to play with the Blues third or fourth line to start the season. While he won’t get to play with Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Jori Lehtera, he’s still a large addition to a Blues roster that always seems to be good, but not good enough.
A lot of his playing time in St. Louis will hinge on how he plays early on. The Blues are without Jaden Schwartz, so Yakupov will get plenty of opportunities to put up a semi-decent point total. Once the Blues are fully healthy, it’s unclear as to what his role will be, as he will be nothing more than a fourth or fifth scoring option.
Nail Yakupov can finally leave Edmonton behind him. It was a rocky relationship with the Oilers, and the hope now is that St. Louis can jumpstart his career. He’s a former top overall pick for a reason, and it’s time he shows why.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288