Yakupov with the Edmonton Oilers in 2015
6 October 1993|
|Height||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)|
|Weight||190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)|
St. Louis Blues
SKA Saint Petersburg
1st overall, 2012|
Nail Railovich Yakupov (Russian: , Tatar: ? ? ; born 6 October 1993) is a Russian professional ice hockey forward for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He was selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and also played with the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. Due to his short NHL career and low point totals, he is considered one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history.
Yakupov grew up within the HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk junior program and moved to North America in 2010 to further his career. Nicknamed the "Yak Attack" for his scoring abilities, he joined the Sarnia Sting, a major junior team in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he played for two years before being selected in the NHL Entry Draft. Yakupov played for the Russian national junior team, winning medals in all three tournaments he participated in.
Yakupov was selected second overall by the Sarnia Sting in the 2010 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft. Prior to this, he played in the Russian Minor Hockey League (MHL) for his hometown team, Reaktor Nizhnekamsk, but thought that trying to join the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) would be a quicker path to his dream to play in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Yakupov scored his first OHL goal against the Windsor Spitfires on 24 September 2010. After winning OHL Rookie of the Month for the month of October, Yakupov participated in the 11 November game of the Subway Super Series for Team Russia, at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario; Russia lost the game 4-0.
On 3 February 2011, Yakupov was named the 'Kal Tire OHL Rookie of the Month' for January, which he had previously won in October 2010. He later won the title for the month of February as well. At the end of the season, Yakupov was named winner of the Emms Family Award as OHL Rookie of the Year, becoming the first Sting player to receive the honour. He was also named to the first All-Rookie team for the season. On 28 May, he was also awarded the title for CHL Rookie of the Year, as the top rookie in the Canadian junior circuit.
On 28 February 2011, at 3:07 in the first period of a game against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Yakupov scored his 43rd goal of the 2010-11 OHL season, giving him the new goal-scoring record for a rookie for the Sarnia Sting. On 19 March 2011, in Sarnia's last game of the 2010-11 season, he scored an assist on the first goal as well as the third goal for Sarnia to obtain his 100th point of the season; he also scored another assist with 80 seconds left in the game to finish the season with 101 points.
Leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Yakupov was the highest-rated player available and was expected to be selected first overall. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said later that Yakupov gave his team the single worst prospect interview he had ever conducted, referring to the player as "uncooperative and sulky". Burke elaborated, saying "Because we were picking fifth in 2012, and he was outraged we would have the temerity to interview him. Because he was going to go first overall." Burke added that during the draft interview, a fistfight almost developed between Yakupov and John Lilley, Toronto's chief amateur scout.
As a result of the 2012-13 NHL lockout, the Oilers had assigned Yakupov to Sarnia for the 2012-13 season. Reports indicated, however, that Yakupov would instead return to Russia and play for HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Yakupov had played for the organization previously as a member of its junior teams. His first game with the team was on 22 September against Traktor Chelyabinsk. After two games with Neftekhimik, Yakupov was suspended temporarily by the KHL, as the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) declared that he was not eligible to play in the league. According to IIHF rules, players moving between teams in different countries need to have a transfer card signed by the outgoing national ice hockey federation and the incoming federation. Hockey Canada, the governing body of ice hockey in Canada, had not signed Yakupov's card, making him ineligible to play in Russia. That required him to return to Canada and play with Sarnia for the remainder of the season. The reason they stated was that Yakupov had signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers, and according to an NHL-CHL agreement, players who sign such contracts have to either play in the NHL or for their CHL teams. Due to the NHL lockout, Yakupov could not play in the NHL and was therefore required to play in Sarnia. Within a few days, however, Hockey Canada decided that Yakupov was free to return to Russia, and signed his card; they "determined that Yakupov had no independent legal advice when, at the age of 17 years, he signed his contract with Sarnia."
The lockout ended in January 2013 and Yakupov returned to North America to play for the Oilers. A fan of Pavel Bure growing up, Yakupov wanted to have the number 10 on his jersey, the same one Bure wore for most of his career. However, since Shawn Horcoff wore that number at the time, Yakupov instead chose to wear number 64, as the two digits added up to 10. Yakupov played his first NHL game in the first Oilers game on 20 January 2013, against the Vancouver Canucks. He scored his first goal during the next game, the Oilers' home opener, against Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks on 22 January.
On 27 April 2013, Yakupov recorded his first career hat trick in a 7-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, with all three goals coming in the third period. Yakupov finished his rookie season leading all rookies in goals with 17, and tied with Jonathan Huberdeau for points with 31. Yakupov also scored 11 goals in the month of April, second only to countryman Alexander Ovechkin.
On 7 October 2016, Yakupov's tenure with the Oilers ended in the lead up to the 2016-17 season, as he was traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for prospect Zach Pochiro and a conditional third-round pick in 2017. After attending training camp and pre-season, he made the Blues opening night roster, making his debut in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on 12 October 2016. In his next game the following day, he scored his first goal with the Blues and added an assist in a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild. After initially providing an offensive spark with 4 points in his first 6 games, Yakupov's contributions dried up and he was made a healthy scratch by the Blues 12th game under head coach Ken Hitchcock. Appearing in a depth role with the Blues, Yakupov was exposed to limited ice time. After Hitchcock's departure, Yakupov appeared in just 11 further games out of 27 after he was made a frequent healthy scratch by Mike Yeo. His season was ended prematurely after suffering a knee injury, which required surgery, against the Colorado Avalanche on 31 March 2017. He completed his season with 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 40 games, all career lows.
Yakupov was set to be a restricted free agent, but with a $2.5 million qualifying offer the Blues declined to renew, he became an unrestricted free agent. Despite gaining KHL interest, Yakupov was determined to continue in the NHL, and on 4 July 2017, he signed a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
As a free agent, Yakupov opted to leave the NHL and return to Russia to develop his game. He agreed to a two-year contract with perennial contending club, SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL on 3 July 2018. In the 2018-19 season, Yakupov enjoyed initial success, registering 23 goals and 33 points through 47 regular season games. His production dipped in the playoffs, totalling 4 goals in 18 games.
On 19 June 2019, Yakupov was signed to an improved three-year contract extension with SKA Saint Petersburg. In the following 2019-20 season, Yakupov was unable to build upon his previous season and suffered a drop in production and role, registering 10 goals and 20 points in 46 games of the COVID-19 affected season.
With two years remaining on his contract, Yakupov was traded by SKA to HC Vityaz in exchange for Pavel Koltygin on 8 May 2020. While continuing in the off-season, Yakupov was then traded on by Vityaz just over a month from his initial acquisition, to Amur Khabarovsk in exchange for financial compensation on 14 June 2020.
In the 2020-21 season with Yakupov looking to assume a larger role with Khabarovsk, he tallied just 1 goal and 7 points through 15 games with Amur before he was traded to Division leading Avangard Omsk in exchange for financial considerations on 20 October 2020. Yakupov made a positive impression with Avangard, collecting 6 goals and 10 points through 22 games before he was sidelined after suffering to the coronavirus. He was unable to return for the remainder of the season after failing to gain medical clearance, however he remained with the team as they claimed the Gagarin Cup.
On 30 April 2021, Yakupov agreed to a two-year contract extension to remain with Avangard Omsk.
|World Junior Championships|
|World Junior A Challenge|
|World Junior U18 Championships|
Yakupov was part of Team Russia in the 2011 World Junior U18 championship. He scored a hat trick in the bronze-medal game, including an empty-net goal with four seconds left, helping defeat Team Canada (with Sting teammate Brett Ritchie) 6-4.
Yakupov was part of the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, joining Russia. His team defeated Canada in the semi-finals, but lost 1-0 to Sweden in the gold medal game, acquiring a silver medal.
Nail Yakupov is an ethnic Volga Tatar and a Muslim. He is the first Tatar and only Muslim ever to be selected first overall at the NHL Entry Draft. With his draft selection, Yakupov surpassed Nazem Kadri as being the highest drafted Muslim player in NHL history. His father, Rail, worked with the HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk hockey team as a coach and executive. Yakupov first skated when he was four-years-old, but was more interested in soccer and the English Premier League club Chelsea than hockey.
|2016-17||St. Louis Blues||NHL||40||3||6||9||19||--||--||--||--||--|
|2018-19||SKA Saint Petersburg||KHL||47||23||10||33||30||18||4||4||8||12|
|2019-20||SKA Saint Petersburg||KHL||46||10||10||20||16||--||--||--||--||--|
|First All-Rookie Team||2011|||
|Rookie of the Year||2011|||
|CHL Rookie of the Year||2011|||
|CHL Top Draft Prospect Award||2012|
|Third All-Star Team||2012|
|Rookie of the Month (October)||2013|
|Gagarin Cup (Avangard Omsk)||2021|||
|Rookie of the Month (April)||2013|
|Awards and achievements|
| Winner of the CHL Rookie of the Year Award
| Winner of the Emms Family Award
| NHL first overall draft pick
| Edmonton Oilers first round draft pick