Nail Yakupov

Aaron Vickers

Skating is his best attribute as he has the ability to use short blade pushes to generate impressive speed. When he gets moving he possesses the hands to control the puck and make some impressive head fakes and lateral moves to beat defenders one-on-one. His agility is unreal as he has an ability that maybe only five or six NHLers have to make a cut on a dime. His powerful legs generate outstanding speed, a killer change of direction and two-step acceleration that backs off most defenders. He has great natural scoring instincts as he is elusive, finds open space quickly and seems to get to where the puck is going before it gets there, just in time for a prime scoring chance. His shot is elite as it comes off his blade very quickly and with good velocity. He can surprise many goaltenders with his quick release and has the accuracy to hit the target consistently. His playmaking game has really taken off this year, as well as his elite vision and creativity. Yakupov’s drive is through the roof: He does not give up on a play no matter how much he is outmanned. His game, while not ideally suited, has some physical elements like the willingness to take and give body checks as well as the willingness to engage in board battles. Even with all of the offensive pop in his game he is a sound two-way player, often filling gaps defensively and taking care of his own zone. (May 2012)