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Yakupov suspended for skipping Top Prospects Game

Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:03 AM / 2012 NHL Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Yakupov suspended for skipping Top Prospects Game
For skipping the Top Prospects Game, Nail Yakupov, Central Scouting's top-rated skater, has been suspended for two games
Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater, has been suspended for two games for skipping the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

The announcement was made Friday by Canadian Hockey League president and Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch prior to the Sting's game against the Plymouth Whalers.

"We believe he could've been there," Branch told the London Free Press. "This is a tremendous event. There were 300 scouts and NHL general managers in attendance and fans who came to see 40 of the best hockey prospects in the world."

Yakupov, who has 22 goals and 33 assists in 29 games, also will sit out Thursday's game at the Barrie Colts. He'll be eligible to return for the Sting's game Feb. 11 at Sudbury.

Top-ranked 2012 Draft prospect Nail Yakupov has 22 goals and 55 points in 29 games for the Sarnia Sting this season. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Top Prospects Game featured some of the top CHL players available for the 2012 NHL Draft. The event, held in Kelowna, B.C., featured a skills competition on Tuesday and a game Wednesday that was televised on the NHL Network in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada.

Yakupov missed nearly a month of action following a knee injury suffered in the gold-medal game at the World Junior Championship, but he played three games in three nights prior to the Top Prospects Game.

Sarnia coach/GM Jacques Beaulieu said Yakupov was advised by doctors to skip the game, and presented Branch with a note from Dr. Bob Giffin of London's Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine Clinic, which said it was "in the best interest of the player not to partake" in the Top Prospects Game.

Branch said he understood Sarnia's reasoning, but believes Yakupov should have flown west anyway.

"We're very much aware of the Fowler Kennedy clinic in London and we're very much aware of the reputation of this particular doctor," Branch said. "A doctor's note is very important, we're not saying it isn't. We're saying we would've liked to see him (Yakupov) fly out to Kelowna and be examined by the doctors on site, which are provided by the host team (Kelowna Rockets)."

Branch cited the example of Quebec Remparts center Mikhail Grigorenko, Central Scouting's No. 2-rated North American skater, who played in the Top Prospects Game despite telling NHL.com an ankle injury he suffered at the WJC was only 80-percent healed.

"Mikhail had a slight injury coming into the event and he flew out to Kelowna and was examined by the doctors there," he said. "He was cleared to play but his activities were curtailed. You look at what the Plymouth Whalers did with (forward) Tom Wilson. They sat him out (an OHL game) so he would be able to play in Kelowna.

"This is a very important game."

Branch said it's the first time he's had to suspend a player for missing the Top Prospects Game.

"It's a policy in (the OHL)," Branch said. "It's a minimum two-game suspension. The Canadian Hockey League asked the OHL to look at the possibility of discipline. That's an important distinction to make."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
2012 NHL Draft