Nail Yakupov

Russian ice hockey player

Ice hockey player
Nail Yakupov
Nail Yakupov - Edmonton Oilers.jpg
Yakupov with the Edmonton Oilers 22 in 2015
Born (1993-10-06) 6 October 1993 (age 28)
Nizhnekamsk, Russia
Height 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Weight 190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shoots Left
KHL team
Former teams
Avangard Omsk
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
Edmonton Oilers
St. Louis Blues
Colorado Avalanche
SKA Saint Petersburg
Amur Khabarovsk
National team  Russia
NHL Draft 1st overall, 2012
Edmonton Oilers
Playing career 2012–present

Nail Railovich Yakupov (Russian: Наиль Раилович Якупов, Tatar: Наил Раил улы Якупов; 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 draft position, short NHL career and low point totals, Yakupov is widely regarded as one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history.[1]

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.

Playing career


Yakupov was selected second overall by the Sarnia Sting in the 2010 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft.[2] Prior to this, he played in the Russian Minor Hockey League (MHL) for his hometown team, Reaktor Nizhnekamsk,[3] 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).[2]

Yakupov scored his first OHL goal against the Windsor Spitfires on 24 September 2010.[4] 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,[5] at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario; Russia lost the game 4–0.[6]

Yakupov being checked by Colton Sissons during the CHL Canada/Russia Series

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.[7] He later won the title for the month of February as well.[8] 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.[9] He was also named to the first All-Rookie team for the season.[9] On 28 May, he was also awarded the title for CHL Rookie of the Year, as the top rookie in the Canadian junior circuit.[10]

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.[11][12] 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.[13]

Early in the 2011–12 season, Yakupov took the scoring lead with 25 points in 10 games. A 12-point week landed him CHL Player of the Week honours for the first time on 18 October 2011.[14]

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.[15]


Edmonton Oilers

During the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on 23 June 2012, Yakupov was picked first overall by the Edmonton Oilers. On 23 July, the Oilers signed Yakupov to a three-year entry level contract.

As a result of the 2012–13 NHL lockout, the Oilers had assigned Yakupov to Sarnia for the 2012–13 season.[16] Reports indicated, however, that Yakupov would instead return to Russia and play for HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).[17] Yakupov had played for the organization previously as a member of its junior teams.[18] His first game with the team was on 22 September against Traktor Chelyabinsk.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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."[21]

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.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] Yakupov also scored 11 goals in the month of April, second only to countryman Alexander Ovechkin.

St. Louis Blues

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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] He completed his season with 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 40 games, all career lows.

Colorado Avalanche

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.[31][32] 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.[33]

Return to the KHL

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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] Yakupov made a positive impression with Avangard, collecting 6 goals and 10 points through 22 games before he was sidelined with COVID-19. 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.[39]

International play

Nail Yakupov.png
Medal record
ice hockey
Representing  Russia
World Junior Championships
Bronze medal – third place 2013 Russia
Silver medal – second place 2012 Canada
World Junior A Challenge
Bronze medal – third place 2009 Summerside
World Junior U18 Championships
Bronze medal – third place 2011 Germany

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.[40]

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.

Personal life

Nail Yakupov is an ethnic Volga Tatar and a Muslim.[41][42] He is the first Tatar and only Muslim ever to be selected first overall at the NHL Entry Draft.[43] With his draft selection, Yakupov surpassed Nazem Kadri as 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 in hockey.[44]

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2009–10 Reaktor Nizhnekamsk MHL 14 4 2 6 26
2010–11 Sarnia Sting OHL 65 49 52 101 71
2011–12 Sarnia Sting OHL 42 31 38 69 30 4 2 3 5 4
2012–13 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk KHL 22 10 8 18 33
2012–13 Edmonton Oilers NHL 48 17 14 31 30
2013–14 Edmonton Oilers NHL 63 11 13 24 39
2014–15 Edmonton Oilers NHL 81 14 19 33 23
2015–16 Edmonton Oilers NHL 60 8 15 23 42
2016–17 St. Louis Blues NHL 40 3 6 9 19
2017–18 Colorado Avalanche NHL 58 9 7 16 37
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
2020–21 Amur Khabarovsk KHL 15 1 5 6 10
2020–21 Avangard Omsk KHL 22 6 4 10 6
2021–22 Avangard Omsk KHL 43 9 17 26 14 10 1 3 4 2
KHL totals 195 58 55 113 109 28 5 7 12 14
NHL totals 350 62 74 136 190


Year Team Event Result GP G A Pts PIM
2009 Russia IH18 2nd place, silver medalist(s) 4 3 2 5 4
2010 Russia IH18 5th 4 3 2 5 2
2011 Russia U18 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) 7 6 7 13 6
2012 Russia WJC 2nd place, silver medalist(s) 7 0 9 9 6
2013 Russia WJC 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) 7 3 5 8 0
Junior totals 29 15 25 40 18

Awards and honours

Award Year
First All-Rookie Team 2011 [9]
Rookie of the Year 2011 [9]
CHL Rookie of the Year 2011 [10]
CHL Top Draft Prospect Award 2012
Third All-Star Team 2012
Gagarin Cup champion 2021 [45]


  1. ^ Kournianos, Steve (9 July 2018). "The truth about Nail Yakupov, an imperfect prospect set up to bust".
  2. ^ a b "Sarnia Sting's dynamic Russian prospects turning heads in the OHL". The Hockey News. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Reaktor Nizhnekamsk 2009-10 Stats and Fights". Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Nail Yakupov 1st career OHL goal vs Windsor 2010 09 24". NHL Draft Video. Retrieved 6 February 2011.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Team Russia Roster, 2010 Subway Super Series". Canadian Hockey League. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Game 3 Highlights Video, 2010 Subway Super Series". Canadian Hockey League. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  7. ^ "OHL Top Performers of the Month for January". Ontario Hockey League. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  8. ^ "OHL Top Performers of the Month for February". Ontario Hockey League. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d "OHL Top Performers of the Month for January". Ontario Hockey League. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Sarnia Sting's Nail Yakupov Named BMO Rookie of the Year". MarketWire. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Game Summary". Ontario Hockey League. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Yakupov sets record in loss". The Observer. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  13. ^ David Borody. "Sting close out season with a win". Sarnia Sting Website. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  14. ^ "Sting's Nail Yakupov Named CHL Player of the Week". Sarnia Sting Website. Archived from the original on 23 October 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  15. ^ Fox, Luke. "Q&A: Brian Burke on the Kessel ultimatum, Hull haircut, worst draft interview". Rogers SportsNet. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  16. ^ "Nugent-Hopkins sent to AHL, Yakupov to juniors". 15 September 2012. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  17. ^ "Yakupov Faces Uncertain Lockout Future". RIA Novosti. 16 September 2012. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  18. ^ RIA Novosti (18 September 2012). "Yakupov's Lockout Fate 'to be Decided Wednesday'". Ria Novosti. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  19. ^ "Rampant Radulov Earns Win for CSKA". RIA Novosti. 22 September 2012. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Oiler Yakupov Hit With KHL Ban". Ria Novosti. 26 September 2012. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  21. ^ a b "Hockey Canada clears Nail Yakupov to resume KHL career". Canadian Press. CBC. 29 September 2012. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  22. ^ "Oilers' Nail Yakupov may have to return to OHL". Canadian Press. CBC. 12 September 2012. Archived from the original on 29 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Nail Yakupov decides on No. 64 for Oilers jersey since 10 is already taken". National Post. 10 January 2013. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  24. ^ "Nail Yakupov scores first NHL goal". 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  25. ^ "Oilers end season by routing Canucks". 28 April 2013. Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  26. ^ "Oilers deal Yakupov to Blues for pick, prospect". The Sports Network. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  27. ^ "Tarasenko helps Blues top Blackhawks in opener". CBS Sports. 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Yakupov provides offensive spark as Blue beat Wild 3-2". CBS Sports. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Tarasenko's OT goal lifts Blues past Blue Jackets". CBS Sports. 5 November 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  30. ^ "Yakupov had surgery to injured knee". Stltoday. 9 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  31. ^ "Nail Yakupov to become UFA after Blues decline qualifying offer". CBC. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  32. ^ "Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues walk away". NBC Sports. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  33. ^ "Ex-Oilers winger Nail Yakupov signs with Colorado Avalanche". Edmonton Journal. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  34. ^ "Наиль Якупов – в СКА!" (in Russian). SKA Saint Petersburg. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  35. ^ "СКА подписал новый контракт с Наилем Якуповым" (in Russian). SKA Saint Petersburg. 19 June 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  36. ^ ""Витязь" и СКА совершили обмен" (in Russian). HC Vityaz. 8 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  37. ^ "Amur Khabarovsk acquire Nail Yakupov" (in Russian). Amur Khabarovsk. 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  38. ^ "Якупов перешел в "Авангард", Чехович в "Торпедо"" (in Russian). Avangard Omsk. 20 October 2020. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  39. ^ "Avangard extend contracts with three players" (in Russian). Avangard Omsk. 30 April 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  40. ^ "Russia beats Canada 6-4 to win bronze at world U18 hockey tournament". CityNews Toronto. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  41. ^ "Draft 2012: Nail Yakupov". 17 June 2012. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014.
  42. ^ Andrey Osadchenko (12 June 2012). "Nail Yakupov on being a Muslim, Don Cherry, the draft combine and playing in Canada". OilersNation. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  43. ^ Mirtle, James (1 June 2012). "Yakupov tries to prove he's not a stereotypical Russian prospect". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  44. ^ Domrachyov, Vladislav (3 January 2013). "Dreaming of Edmonton". Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  45. ^ "Avangard is crowned 2021 Gagarin Cup Champions" (in Russian). Kontinental Hockey League. 29 April 2021. Retrieved 29 April 2021.

External links

  • Biographical information and career statistics from, or, or, or, or The Internet Hockey Database
Awards and achievements
Preceded by Winner of the CHL Rookie of the Year Award
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the Emms Family Award
Succeeded by
Preceded by NHL first overall draft pick
Succeeded by
Preceded by Edmonton Oilers first round draft pick
Succeeded by