NHL Draft 2012: Nail Yakupov Has The Spotlight

CALGARY, CANADA - JANUARY 5: Johan Gustafsson #30 of Team Sweden stops the puck in front of Nail Yakupov #10 of Team Russia during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on January 5, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Nail Yakupov is the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, but will the Edmonton Oilers select him?

The Edmonton Oilers need a defenseman. Nail Yakupov is not a defenseman.

You might think that means the Oilers won't pick Yakupov first overall in the 2012 NHL Draft Friday night. And you'd be wrong.

As Minnesota Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr said on KFAN Radio this week when asked about the draft, it's usually a best-player-available move.

Yes, the Oilers need a top-pair defenseman. But passing on Yakupov to draft a potential top-pair defenseman isn't the best way to go about things. Teams that pass on the best player available to fill a need often end up regretting the decision.

In this case, Yakupov does fill a need for Edmonton, beyond being the draft's top prospect. Watching video clips, he appears to have the goal-scoring ability of potential future teammate Taylor Hall, but I think he brings a little more speed and muscle.

To add to that, watch this video and see some truculence out of the 18-year-old.


Nail Yakupov

Position: Forward
2010-11 Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 190
Born: October 6, 1993

2011-12 Regular Season
GP G A P +/- PIM
Sarnia Sting 42 31 38 69 15 30


The Oilers and their fans will like him. Drafting Yakupov, who can skate, hit, score and is a lot of fun to watch, is the best move for the struggling franchise.

Yakupov has a future in this game. You don't want to make the Ovechkin comparison (easy to draw because they are countrymen) because that's a lot of pressure on a teenager. But their styles of play are not completely dissimilar, and if Yakupov continues to improve the way he has the last couple years, there's no reason he can't be a real star in the NHL.

I know there are a lot of intriguing blue-line prospects, but none of them are as high-end as Yakupov is. Edmonton can stock up on defensemen later in the draft, and they can use free agency to try to add a guy who can play in the top pair and eat some minutes.

Edmonton failed, and now they must go for Nail. Anything else is just another fail.

Stick with SB Nation's 2012 NHL Draft hub for full coverage of the event from Pittsburgh. Be sure to check with our network of hockey blogs for draft coverage from a team perspective.

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