This post is a part of Avalanche day at PHT…
As far as No. 1 overall picks go few have had a more disappointing start to their career than 2012 selection Nail Yakupov.
Just five years after being selected with the top pick, Yakupov has managed just 53 goals in five seasons and is already on his third different team. The Edmonton Oilers traded him to St. Louis a year ago for Zach Pochiro, and after 40 mostly forgettable games with the Blues — and not being given a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent — he ended up signing a bargain basement one-year contract with the Avalanche.
At this point it seems the chances of Yakupov becoming the player he was projected to be in 2012 are practically zero, but it is still a worthy gamble for a team like the Avalanche to take.
For one, he still has talent. He hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but he also probably hasn’t found the right situation. Back in July his agent, Igor Larionov, thought it all boiled down to a lack of confidence in Edmonton following the dismissal of coach Ralph Krueger who was willing to have patience with Yakupov when he made a mistake.
Then when he went to St. Louis this past season he never seemed to really fit in with the Blues or get much of a role or a chance to fully redeem himself from his days in Edmonton (and to be fair, when he did see the ice the results were still not always there).
With the Avalanche, however, there should be plenty of opportunity. There is already a belief that the Avalanche see him as a potential top-six option.
It’s a team that is lacking in skill up front and is coming off of a season where it finished with one of the worst records in recent memory and was one of the worst offensive teams in the league. They have nothing to lose by taking a shot on a skilled forward with Yakupov’s pedigree and hoping that he can reach some of that potential. After all, it would not be the first time a highly touted prospect in fizzled in Edmonton and went somewhere else to realize his potential.