Yakupov takes disappointing career to KHL

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When the Edmonton Oilers made Nail Yakupov the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, they expected him to become an impact forward almost right away. Not only did that not happen, but he was barely able to last six seasons in the NHL.

On Tuesday morning, it was announced that Yakupov had signed a one-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

The 24-year-old’s NHL career got off to a promising start, as he was able to put up a respectable 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13. Only Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle had more points for the Oilers that season. But things went downhill after that.

In his sophomore year, he had 11 goals, 24 points and a minus-33 rating in 63 games. Throughout that season, there was plenty of chatter about Yakupov already not being in Edmonton’s plans anymore. He was made a healthy scratch early in the year and things just fell apart after that.

He returned to the Oilers the following year, but he accumulated just 14 goals and 33 points in 81 games. Clearly, that’s not enough for a player who was selected first just two years before that.

In 2015-16, his final year with Edmonton, Yakupov had eight goals and 23 points in 60 contests.

In October of 2017, the Oilers were able to get prospect Zach Pochiro, who’s spent most of his pro career in the ECHL, and a conditional third-rounder from St. Louis in exchange from the Russian winger.

It didn’t take the Blues long to figure out that this gamble wasn’t going to work out. During his only year in St. Louis, Yakupov netted three goals and nine points in 40 games. Again, effort appeared to be an issue at times.

Finally, last season, he ended up signing with the Colorado Avalanche after the Blues decided not to tend him a qualifying offer. Yakupov was regularly scratched toward the end of the season. He ended up with nine goals and seven assists in 58 games. Those numbers aren’t pretty.

All in all, he heads to the KHL with 62 goals and 74 assists in 350 career NHL games.

If he can put together a solid campaign in the KHL, there might be some interest in North America because he’s still relatively young. An NHL return doesn’t seem realistic right now, but stranger things have happened.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.