The St. Louis Blues were hoping they were going to dust off a diamond in the rough when they acquired Nail Yakupov. Unfortunately, for both the player and the team, it did not work out how anyone wanted.
The St. Louis Blues knew they were rolling the dice when they picked up Nail Yakupov just prior to the season. Things were hopeful, but it was always going to be a big ask.
First of all, with no training camp behind him, Yakupov did not have much time to acclimate to his new surroundings or teammates. That should not be a big thing for professionals, but in any team sport, chemistry and a sixth sense of where everyone will be tends to help.
At first, it seemed like the deal was going to be a good one for the Blues. They gave up next to nothing to acquire Yakupov and he came out of the gates strong.
Only playing around 11 minutes a game, he scored two goals and three points in his first five games with St. Louis. The problems came after.
Yakupov scored his second goal on October 20. He would not score another one for almost two months and that goal would be his final of 2016-17.
The enigmatic former first-overall pick never got things rolling again. He was often a healthy scratch, but saw time on the injured list as well.
He would finish the regular season with a paltry nine points to his name. That was the lowest total of his career. While 40 games was also the lowest he had ever played, he scored more goals in 48 games during his rookie season than he had total points last year.
Circling back, it’s a good thing the Blues gave up next to nothing. They basically got nothing in return.
Zach Pochiro has yet to even establish himself as an AHL player, suiting up for just five games in that league. He only had 27 points in the ECHL too.
Yakupov continues to be nothing but potential. He’s got skills for days, but he refuses to play in a team system.
It is hard to pinpoint what his problem is too. He just cannot seem to put things together.
Yakupov seems to want to pass when he should shoot and shoot when he should pass. He’s not an overly selfish player, but doesn’t look to set guys up or drop back to help defend empty space. Like David Perron at the same ate, Yakupov wants to dangle the entire game and ends up running out of real estate.
He’s got speed, which should translate well in today’s game. Like many other Blues we’ve reviewed this offseason so far, he’s regressed almost every season.
At this point, the Yakupov experiment seems like it will be short lived. He will be a restricted free agent and unless someone makes St. Louis a handsome offer, it is hard to believe they would extend him a $2.5 million offer sheet.
Yakupov is not the first highly touted bust and he won’t be the last. It’s just hard to understand how a player with skills like speed and stickhandling cannot find a way to put it all together.
Yakupov may not have been given room to grow with the Blues, but he never gave the team any reason to give him that chance. Combined with his time in Edmonton, we have basically seen what Yakupov is.
Maybe he can turn it around before his time in North America is done. It almost certainly will not be in St. Louis though and whether it is even in the NHL remains to be seen.