Nail Yakupov had a difficult season last year. It resulted in some frustrations with the winger, who saw his successful rookie season get overshadowed by a less productive sophomore season.
The first-overall pick in 2012 has bounced back to show marked improvement in his third NHL season.
“Night and day,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “His confidence level is much higher, he has a firm grasp on how to play without the puck and he’s getting good looks at the net. Last game he had a couple of incredible (Grade A) chances that just missed. He knows that if he keeps getting those chances they’re going to go in. All that stats stuff will look after itself if he keeps playing the way he is. He’s been a real physical play for us as well. He’s come in not afraid to throw his body around, he’s providing some electricity with the puck.”
Eakins says he’s a better player having gone through a disappointing year like he did.
“He’s a far different young man this year than he was last year and that was a hard year for him last year. It’s tough to go through, but the silver lining in all that is that it’s important to go through because it makes you stronger, you learn lessons and then he’s able to help out players coming on behind him that will go through it too. He’s a far better player and he’s maturing nicely for us.”