When word surfaced that the Colorado Avalanche signed fledgling former No.1 overall pick Nail Yakupov, a lot of people snickered.
Plenty of others shrugged their shoulders and said, “Why not?”
The logic for the latter reaction is that the Avalanche have been abysmal, so they have little to lose in handing Yakupov a low-risk, one-year contract at a cheap cost.
Here’s an unsolicited additional point: you could argue that Yakupov didn’t get a real chance to redeem himself with the St. Louis Blues.
Now, this isn’t necessarily meant to be a big criticism of St. Louis. The Blues were a team with aspirations – or at least hopes – to contend, and a pretty decent slew of forwards to choose from, so they didn’t “owe” Yakupov opportunities just because.
In other words, it’s possible that 2012’s top choice simply couldn’t cut it.
MORE: Avalanche sign Yakupov for one year
Even so, Yakupov likely deserves an “Incomplete” grade rather than, say, an “F” for his time with the Blues.
(Edmonton, meanwhile, is where he deserved some poor report cards.)
No doubt about it, a mere nine points of production is paltry, but Yakupov only played in 40 games. And when he did, he was used sparingly; he averaged just 10:39 TOI per game, way down from him Edmonton average of almost 15 minutes per night.
“Nail is a young, skilled winger who will add depth to our lineup,” Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said. “We look forward to seeing him at training camp.”
Again, it’s not like he kicked down the door for shifts, particularly with the Oilers.
He peaked with 17 goals during his rookie season, and that was with the luck that comes with a 21 shooting percentage. It’s perfectly reasonable to state that Yakupov may simply not “have it.”
Still, Yakupov will only be 24 once the 2017-18 season begins, and the Avs have every reason to give him a true opportunity to prove that he can at least be a solid NHL contributor. They might even provide a long enough leash that he can fight through the ups and downs that come from trying to produce points in a league where they’re tough to come by.
Let’s not forget how much Justin Schultz‘s league-wide standing was sinking before things worked out – splendidly – with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe the odds are against anything but the most modest returns for Colorado, but if nothing else, it’s worth a shot.