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Yakupov named OHL Player of the Month

by Mike G. Morreale
Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, who many consider will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22, was named the Ontario Hockey League's player of the month for October.

Yakupov led the league in scoring with 29 points in 13 games for Sarnia, including 11 goals and a league-leading 18 assists in October.

"Yakupov is a dynamic exciting player … he's one of the few players that you can say this guy is worth the price of admission," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told "He can put on that type of a show, he's that skilled."

Yakupov, who began skating when he was 3-years-old in Nizhnekamsk, Russia, had a point in 12 of his 13 games in the month. He produced nine multi-point games and finished with the second highest plus-minus rating in the League (plus-13).

In the upcoming six-game 2011 Subway Super Series, featuring the top junior-aged players of the Canadian Hockey League against those from the Russian National Junior Team, Yakupov will represent his country against Team OHL on Nov. 10 in Ottawa.

"When you watch him, I don't think there's one singular player that you would say, 'Wow, that's a guy he could be just like,'" said NHL Network analyst Craig Button. "But his ability to maneuver out of traffic and out of the corners from tight areas reminds you a Pavel Datsyuk. When you watch him explode in his skating, he reminds you of Pavel Bure."

Yakupov was one of 36 top 2012 prospects on the ice for the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Etobicoke, Ont., in August. Yakupov (6-foot, 190 pounds), selected second by the Sting during the 2010 CHL import draft, had the fourth-highest total in the OHL and most by a first-year player when he struck for 101 points in 2010-11. He won the OHL's Rookie of the Year award and his point total, which included 49 goals, shattered Steven Stamkos' team record for a rookie (92 points in 2006-07).

Yakupov claimed OHL and CHL Player of the Week honors for the week ending Oct. 16 when he matched a career-high with 4 assists on Oct. 14 in a 7-2 win over the Saginaw Spirit. During a stretch of three straight games from Oct. 22-29, he scored 7 points in three games. Yakupov was also named the game's first star in a 7-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves after notching 2 goals and 2 assists on Oct. 1.

Yakupov, 18, currently leads the OHL in scoring with 34 points in 16 games with 12 goals and a league-high 22 assists. He's looking to become the first Russian-born player since Alex Ovechkin in 2004 to go first overall.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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