If there was a place that Nail Yakupov might be able to turn his NHL career around, the 23-year-old wing may have found the right place in Colorado. The 2012 former first-overall pick has struggled to establish himself the player that everyone thought he would be. Now, five seasons into his career, Yakupov may be nearing his last chance to revive his career.
After a solid rookie year in which he scored 17 goals in 48 games back in the 2012-13 season, Yakupov never was able to improve on that and eventually, his numbers began to decline. He was then traded last October to the St. Louis Blues. Some thought that when Edmonton traded him to the Blues, he could revive his career with the change of scenery. However, Yakupov managed just three goals in 40 games and wasn’t offered a qualifying offer. Finally, as a free agent, he signed a one-year, $875,000 deal for the opportunity to play.
NBC Sports Adam Gretz writes that he will get a legitimate opportunity in Colorado as the team views him as a top-6 wing for them. He adds that its a gamble worth taking when you are last in the league in goals scored (2.01). He cites that agent Igor Larianov believes Yakupov’s lack of success is from his lack of confidence from his Edmonton days and was never given a real opportunity in St. Louis.
- In a separate piece, Gretz also writes that while the team did little to improve the team this offseason, the team must hinge their hopes on their youth. The team already got good returns from 2015 first-rounder Mikko Rantanen, who put up a 20-goal season in his first full year. Gretz adds that this could also be the season that they see 2016 first-rounder Tyson Jost have a big season. The 10th overall pick in last year’s draft played one year at the University of North Dakota before signing after the season with the Avalanche. Jost, played in six games, scoring one goal for Colorado.
- SB Nation’s Mile High Hockey also cites 20-year-old forward A.J. Greer as a potential breakout player this coming year. The 6-foot-3 forward, a second-round pick in 2015, had 15 goals for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage and got into five games for the Avalanche, picking up one point.