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2012 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Nail Yakupov

by Greg Fernandez / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins and CONSOL Energy Center will be hosting the 2012 NHL Draft on June 22nd and 23rd. In the days leading up to the event, will be putting the spotlight on some of the best and brightest draft-eligible prospects.


Position: Right Wing
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 189 pounds
Shoots: Left
Born: Oct. 6, 1993
Born In: Nizhnekamsk, RUS
Nizhnekamsk, RUS
Played the 2011-12 season with: Sarnia Sting (Ontario Hockey League)

2009-10 NIZHNEKAMSK 2 RUSSIA - JR 14 4 2 6
2010-11 SARNIA OHL 65 49 52 101
2011-12 SARNIA OHL 42 31 38 69


NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 among North American skaters
The Hockey News: No. 1
McKeen's Hockey: No. 1
Red Line Report: No. 1
TSN: No. 1

NHL Comparison - Pavel Bure
NHL Projection:


Growing up in Nizhnekamsk, RUS, Nail Yakupov idolized Russian scoring machine Pavel Bure. Now, the smooth-skating right winger appears to have cemented himself as the consensus No. 1-overall prospect heading into the 2012 NHL Draft and has even drawn the same comparisons with his childhood idol nicknamed “The Russian Rocket.” Considered by many to be the most offensively gifted player in the draft, Yakupov made a name for himself during the 2010-2011 season for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. During his rookie season, Yakupov went on to break young NHL scoring phenom Steven Stamkos’ rookie franchise record for most goals (49) and points (101) while being named Canadian Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League Rookie of the Year. Not purely just a scorer, Yakupov has displayed high-end passing skills, evidenced with his strong numbers during Russia’s silver medal run in the 2012 World Junior Championships, where he finished tied for the tournament lead in assists (9). He most notably picked apart Team Canada in the semifinals, tallying four assists in the victory. Even though injuries limited Yakupov to 42 games in his second season, he continued to impress, increasing his points-per-game average from the previous season (1.64 up from 1.55).

“Yakupov is the most dangerous offensive player in the draft since he can slow the game down to his pace and beat the opposition in a multitude of ways. He instantly puts fear into the opposition once he gains the offensive zone due to his ability to hit a streaking player with a timely, accurate pass or by using his shot. Yakupov is a healthy skater who’s shiftier than fast, but he can navigate the ice so feely with his smooth, crisp glide and by exhibiting extreme agility.”

–McKeen’s Hockey

An ethnic Tatar, he hails from the city of Nizhnekamsk, located about 500 miles east of Moscow. His first name, Nail, is Arabic in origin and means “reaching, achieving or gaining success”.

Yakupov started skating at age three -- “Ever since my mom and dad put Dynamo hockey skates on me all I have known was hockey. A rink was a 10 minute walk from our house, so I spent all my time there."

He credits his father, who coached him when he was younger, as the biggest influence on his career -- “He has helped me every step of the way so far with advice and encouragement.”

Former Russian NHL star, Pavel Bure, a player Yakupov has been compared to, is his childhood idol – “I love the way he played. (He was) very explosive, a great skater, very creative and (he) loved to score goals.”


NHL team: Detroit and Vancouver
NHL player: Pavel Bure, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby
Shootout move: “It’s a secret”
Goal celebration: “I love to celebrate”
Video game: NHL ‘12
TV show: NHL Hockey and Russian TV
Actor: Jason Statham
Activity away from the rink: Hanging out with friends and teammates
Home-cooked meal: Pasta and chicken

Information courtesy of
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