New York Islanders

The Affect That Semyon Varlamov Can Have On The New York Islanders

The signing of Semyon Varlamov can prove to be beneficial in many ways for the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders inked Semyon Varlamov to a four year deal yesterday with an AAV of five million, reported by Arthur Staple of The Athletic. The move comes after the news of former Islander goalie, and fan favorite, Robin Lehner agreeing to a one year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Varlamov is coming off of a decent season with the Colorado Avalanche after going 20-19-9 with a SV% of .909 and a GAA of 2.87. Varlamov will now have the chance to elevate his game by working with goalie guru Mitch Korn.

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Why Varlamov over Lehner?

For just about every Islander fan, hearing the news of Robin Lehner leaving Long Island to join another team was heartbreaking. He was beloved by the whole community and was a strong role model for everyone battling with mental illness.

While it was very tough to watch him leave, it was harder to hear that Lehner was offered a contract to stay with the Islanders that he turned down. We would have to assume it was declined in hopes that he would get a contract he thought was more fitting for the production he put on the ice this past season. While it is odd to see the Islanders go after a 31 year old goalie coming off an ok season rather than lock the 27 year old Vezina finalist to a long term deal, it looks as if they had no other choice after he declined their first offer.

I know I speak for every Islander fan when I say this, good luck in Chicago Robin. All of the Isles family is rooting for you.

Varlamov and Sorokin

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The Islanders have a goalie by the name of Ilya Sorokin in their system, and here is a little secret, he’s very very good. The last three seasons in the KHL have been unbelievable for Sorokin. In the past three seasons, his GAA has been under 1.61 in each season. In fact, he was able to post a 1.16 GAA this past season with CSKA Moscow. Read those three numbers one more time and soak that in. The 23 year old kid is a bonafide stud and all the Islanders could ever hope for is for him to come over to the States after his final season in the KHL next year.

This is where we go back to the signing of Varlamov. Varlamov and Sorokin are noted to be very good friends, both being from Russia, and both having the same agent. This relationship is exactly what Sorokin might need to him make the transition from Russia to the States easier. For the Islanders, that is without a doubt what they hope it will do. Not only would Varlamov help Sorokin adjust to life in the States, he can also help his game on the ice. If he was to come over, he would hopefully become the franchise goalie that the New York Islanders have been waiting a long time for.

For the time being, Islanders fans will have to be patient with Sorokin and let him focus on his time in the KHL. While Isles fans are waiting, they’ll be rooting for Varlamov to have a bounce back season with Mitch Korn there to guide him.

Stats from www.eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

 

 

 

Kirill Kaprizov

A KHL Update With Aivis Kalniņš of HockeyBuzz

photo of Kirill Kaprizov, photo credit – Андрей Чудаев

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Aivis Kalniņš of HockeyBuzz. Kalniņš is a Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) columnist/insider and is a great follow for insight on players and prospects across the pond.

In my interview with Kalniņš, we touched on many topics including North American players adjusting to life in the KHL, Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild prospect), Vasili Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks prospect), Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders prospect and more. 

Let’s check out what Kalniņš had to say.

The Interview

Josh: Many hockey fans in North America don’t really comprehend why the KHL is relatively low-scoring compared to the NHL. Can you talk about the style of play in the KHL and why the league is considered a low scoring one when you compare it to the NHL?

Aivis: It’s mainly because of the rink size. Puck gets overcarried a lot. Players try to make fancy plays. It’s just a whole different game over here which unfortunately affects goal scoring. However, the league is set to slowly switch to North American sized rinks as IIHF is working on doing the same across all European pro leagues. 

Josh: Ilya Sorokin is coming off of a great season with CSKA Moskva. What are the attributes of his game that you like the most and what do you believe that he still needs to work on?

Aivis: Ilya is a super athletic goalie and he knows how to use that. His reflexes are at an elite level, his movements are very steady, especially when moving side-to-side in the crease. He could work a little more on puck tracking. He’s often caught making those desperation saves just because he sometimes loses the puck. 

Josh: Nikita Gusev had an outstanding season with SKA St. Petersburg. He led the KHL in points. Do you believe that his offensive production will translate well to the NHL?

Aivis: I do believe that his production will translate well to the NHL. He’s one of not many players from KHL that can actually make the jump, adjust and make an impact. Gusev, Dadonov and Panarin have all been THE players that from the start to the end of their paths to the NHL have had me convinced that they are going to be big name players even in North America. You can look at Panarin – everyone loves him on and off the ice. Dadonov is also loved and is performing exceptionally well in a market like Florida so he’s a little underrated. Gusev has the same future ahead of him. 

Josh: Kirill Kaprizov of CSKA Moskva is looking like the best drafted prospect in Russia. The Minnesota Wild are patiently waiting for him to come to Minnesota. If you had to compare Kaprizov to an NHLer (current or former), which player would you compare him to and why?

Aivis: I don’t think Im going to say that he reminds me of player X or Y. He’s a goal scorer, he’s fast, he can play along the boards. He’s a very well rounded player. Can play in both ends of the ice. He hasn’t even played a single game in the NHL but I already read him as an 80+ point guy in the league and that says a lot about him. 

Josh: Miro Aaltonen had a great campaign with Vityaz Podolsk. In your opinion, does Miro look like he improved since his days with the Toronto Marlies or is he relatively the same?

Aivis: He has improved a little but I don’t think he will be able to improve to an extent which could lead him to the NHL just because his team choice was very poor. Yes, he is a part of the leadership group, he is playing big minutes, important situations – but it’s not working for him. More or less – he is the same player he was back then. ”Being a leader” in my book doesn’t count as a thing you should be developing. 

Josh: What are your overall thoughts on Vasili Podkolzin? 

Aivis: Canucks make the right choice. I had spoken to a few scouts and people in both KHL and NHL and heard that he was probably a top 3 prospect in the draft if it wasn’t for his KHL contract with SKA. NHL teams are scared because of the ”Russian” factor. Podkolzin is very similar to Alex Radulov but much faster. Very bright future for this kid. 

Josh: Who are some KHLers that NHL teams might try to bring to North America next year? Are there a few KHLers that fans in North America should pay special attention to?

Aivis: It’s hard to say at this point. The players that are worth bringing to North America usually pop up during the season. They tend to change on a monthly basis – so this really isn’t a question for the off-season. There is literally no buzz at this time of the year as the whole focus for everyone is either the current NHL free agency period or for the KHL it’s time to start packing and slowly getting to the training camps that mostly start at some point in July. 

Josh: We’ve seen a lot of Americans and Canadians come play for KHL teams. Does it seem that it’s relatively easy for these players to come to the KHL and get used to living across the world? Do the players begin to learn the local languages (i.e. Russian, Finnish, Latvian)?

Aivis: It depends on where you sign. I’ve heard so many stories from so many players. The European based teams (Riga, Helsinki, Minsk) are usually more pleasant for the so-called import players. There is not as much of a culture shock. You’re not thrown into bear fights or whatever. It’s never easy to move to the other side of the world. Often players don’t see their families for months because of how hard it is to travel. Some players don’t even want to bring their families along. Traveling in KHL from city to city is a nightmare – you can never get used to that. There are cities in Russia that players absolutely hate to even be in but sometimes they offer the best money. I think all the players try to learn local languages to an extent, especially all the simple phrases and things like ”Hello”, ”Goodbye”, ”How are you”.  There are some that love Europe and money so much that they change their hockey passports and move to these countries and even represent them in the IIHF competitions. 

Thank You Aivis

Thank you Aivis for taking the time to speak with me. Look forward to interviewing you again in the future.

featured image photo credit – Андрей Чудаев, Wikipedia Commons (License Info)

 

NHL Entry Draft: Top Russian Draft Eligible Prospects

Draft day is upon us and with that comes the final look on the European Leagues top prospects. This time it will be a look into the best of the prospects from Russia, with love.

The wait is over. Its draft day in Vancouver and its time for the prospects of the world to find out what the reward for all the long grueling hours of training will become. This includes a massive draft class from Russia. Just like the Swedes it was a very difficult task to narrow the pool down to four prospects. The fact that goalie prospect Ilya Konovalov had a .930 save procentage in 43 games in the KHL and didn’t make the list should be all the prove needed to showcase that.

Vasili Podkolzin – SKA-Neva St. Petersburg – Winger

Probably the most controversial prospects of  the first round, Podkolzin seems to have people mixed the most. Some are calling him a bust even before he has even been picked, while some see him as the best outside Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. At the start of May he looked destined to go third overall, but lately he has dropped in the ranking and now looks to go as low as 15th in the draft.

He played in SKA St Petersburgs different teams, with most of his time spend in the MHL and VHL. Here he had an okay year with 13 points in 26 games. For someone who is yet to turn 18, that’s far from bad. He even managed to get a taste of the KHL, although with limited minutes. While Podkolzin hasn’t fully light up the lamp at the club level, he has impressed mightily on the international scene. He was the captain of the under 18 team, where he almost led them to a gold medal, but Russia fell at the last hurdle and had to settle for silver. He also got a bronze medal at his first crack at the juniors. At 17 years of age even being a part of the Russian Junior team, speaks of his talents.

Podkolzins strengths are many and with blinding speed and hands, he can make some amazing plays at high speed he is lethal. Combine that with a great shot and vision and you got a near perfect goal scorer. On top of that he is a very nice size, and a lot of similarities can be made to Alexander Ovechkin in the way he plays the game. His compete level is fantastic and like he showed with the under 18 national team, he is a fine leader. The reason he has dropped seems to be the Russian factor, where he is bound to a contract with SKA St Petersburg for the next 2 seasons. Some teams will struggle to wait that long to see him in action. However, as we seen with Artemi Panarin, the team that can wait, might get a fantastic star at the end of it all.

Pavel Dorofeyev – Metallurg Magnitogorsk – Winger

A beast in the Russian junior leagues, where Pavel Dorofeyev showed that he was far too good. He played 19 games and had 31 points. That’s numbers that more than warranted the call up to the KHL that he got, although it was with more limited ice time at Matallurg. Here he has had 2 points, which isn’t great, but he has played 23 games. That’s not easy to do in Europe’s strongest league at the age of 18. A league that has players who could more than hang in the NHL, and while he wasn’t scoring for fun, he stayed on the team and even getting to play 4 playoff games.

A strong offensive player, who is very similar to Podkolzin in a lot of ways, only a year older. A nice shot, fine speed and a super vision, makes him an exciting player to watch. He possesses good work rates on the defensive areas and is having more than enough talents to produce at a great level in the NHL. But like Podkolzin the thing that hurts his draft stock is his contract situation. Once again, it’s very likely that he won’t come to North America directly, and it will always be a risk that he signs a contract in Russia, that locks him for a little while in the KHL. Some teams wont risk that with their first rounder and therefor he could drop, and if so he could be a great steal to keep an eye on.

Yegor Spiridonov – Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk – Center

The center of Pavel Dorofeyev in the MHL, but unlike his line mate, he stayed the entire year in the MHL, despite dominating it. 41 points in 43 games tells the story of a great season for Spiridonov, who also was a key part of the Russian team that made it all the way to the finals, in the under 18 world championship. Here he had six points in the seven games.

The strengths of Spiridonov is his two way ability. Similar to a player like Mikko Koivu, his defensive awareness and discipline when it comes to the defensive duties is second to no. If a shot needs to be blocked he will do it, and with great physicality his a able to win a lot of the battles at the boards. He is a coach’s best friend in a lot of ways. However, as good as the defensive abilities of Spiridonov is, the offense is lacking behind. Although he keeps the puck well as he enters the zone, his skating his not great. Its something that needs a lot of work from the team that picks him. But with his work rates and pride as he plays, im confident that he is more than capable of being a fine NHL player, that might even be able in the mid rounds.

Pyotr Kochetkov – SKA-Neva St. Petersburg – Goalie

An absolute brick wall at the world juniors where he was deservingly so named the best goalie of the tournmant, has risen his stock a lot. Follow that up with some fine domestic performances and the 19-year-old, might finally get drafted. While most of the season was in VHL he was putting up fantastic numbers for St Petersburgs VHL team. 18 games and a .930 and .955 in the playoff is worth taking note of.

Twice he has been passed but I can’t see the same happen in Vancouver as he is a well sized goalie at 6’3 who is able to cover the net well and with his great agility and quickness he is absolutely one of the better goalies in the draft. Where he needs to work on his game is his aggressiveness that can see him overcommit and leave too much net open on a rebound. However, that is something that corrected with the right training and I could see him become a starter in the future.

NHL: Top 2020 European Undrafted Free Agency

Undrafted Free Agency has provided teams with great talent in the past. Next year is no exception. As it is still a year away it is hard to tell who will be available, what other players will breakout and what players will take a step back.

Teemu Turunen, LW, HIFK

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Teemu Turunen spent this past season with HPK of Liiga, the top league in Finland. He is still only 23 years old! In just his third season with the club he broke out and had a great season. He had 20 goals (2nd on HPK), 34 assists (2nd on HPK) and 54 points (1st on HPK) in 57 games. The most dominant part of Turunen’s game is his hand-eye coordination. But his small stature, 5’10”, and his below average skating ability have others concerned about how good he could be at the NHL level. Three days ago, Turunen, signed a new one year contract with the Liiga club, HIFK.

Konstantin Okulov, C/RW, CSKA Moskva

Konstantin Okulov excelled with CSKA Moskva of the KHL, the top league in Russia, this year. He was one of the top players under 25 years old this past year. He has been a good role player in the past in the KHL, but this season he turned it up a notch. He scored 20 goals (2nd on CSKA), assisted on 11 (7th on CSKA) and 31 assists (4th on CSKA) in 48 games. He also got a lot of experience in the KHL playoffs. He ultimately broke out here and posted 7 goals and 7 assists in 19 playoff games. This performance by Okulov, helped CSKA Moskva to a Gagarin Cup. It is no surprise that, Okulov’s, greatest asset is his elite shot. His defensive abilities are a little lack luster but he is expected to be an offensive presence on the ice. He has one year left on his deal with CSKA Moskva.

Jakob Lilja, LW, Djugårdens IF

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At 25 years of age, Jakob Lilja is considered to be a late bloomer. He played great in his first year with his new club, Djugårdens IF, in the SHL. This year paired with SHL rookie, Emil Bemstrom, he had a great season. Lilja, was able to score 12 goals (3rd on Djugårdens IF), assisted on 25 more (1st on Djugårdens IF) and led all skaters on Djugårdens IF with 37 points. He did this in 52 games. Jakob Lilja is known for his playmaking abilities and his great acceleration. He does lack high end skill, but is still a good player. He is currently under contract for one more year.

Stefan Loibl, RW/C, Straubing Tigers

Stefan Loibl, is part of the movement of great young German players. Players like Leon Draisaitl, Dominik Kahun, Tim Stützle and Moritz Seider are among the most known. He is still 22 years old and has been a force for the Tigers. In just his second year with the big club he scored 21 goals (2nd on Straubing) and 17 assists (3rd on Straubing) for 38 points (3rd on Straubing) in 52 games. From his stats it’s easy to tell that his forte is his goal scoring. He also has good size at 6’2″ and he has a quick first step with excellent acceleration. His defensive game does need some work and he will need time to develop. His contract ends at the end of next season.

Nikolai Demidov, LHD, Sibir Novosibirsk

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Nikolai Demidov is perhaps one of the most unknown but also one of the most underrated undrafted free agents. He is also just 23 years old. He played a big role with Sibir Novosibirsk, playing on the power play as well as 5-on-5, he averaged 17:48 on ice. Demidov, scored 10 goals (5th on Sibir), 15 assists (1st on Sibir) and 25 points (3rd on Sibir), he lead all defensemen in all of these categories on his team. He also recorded 8 power play goals. He did this in 47 games. Nikolai Demidov, is an offensive defenseman who has a good shot. His main weakness would be his size, 6’0″ and his defensive play. Demidov’s contract ends next year and could look to come to the NHL.

Jarkko Parikka, LHD, Ilves

Jarkko Parikka, is the youngest player so far on this list at only 21 years of age! Like, Demidov, he’s very unknown. This was his second full year with Ilves in Liiga. Not to mention he also played four games with Finland’s National Team and got an assist. Parikka notched 5 goals (9th on Ilves) and 14 assists (6th on Ilves) for 19 points (9th on Ilves) in 59 games. Jarkko Parikka plays a puck-moving role, he’s quick on his feet and is able to make good passes. He does have some concerns with strength and size, 6’0″ and 187 pounds. I cannot state this enough, but he is only 21 years old and has time to develop. He has shown a lot of poise for his age. Like everyone else on this list, his contract expires next year.

Emil Larmi, G, HPK

The first goaltender on this list, Emil Larmi, is just 22 years old. Goalies usually take the longest to develop, and Larmi is an example. Three years ago he was struggling to find a spot with the Lahti Pelicans U20 team, but was able to land a contract with HPK and has truly flourished. This year he played 36 games and recorded a 1.94 goals against average and a .909 save percentage which was good enough for 9th in Liiga. He’s an aggressive, but very poised goaltender. Larmi, sometimes makes questionable plays with the puck, but this is a minor detail. He is also a smaller goaltender at 6’0″ and 183 pounds. Emil Larmi showed how great he could be in the Liiga playoffs recording a 1.72 goals against average, .932 save percentage and led HPK to a Liiga championship game (18 games played). Larmi, is rumored to go to Kärpät for a year, ironically the team HPK beat in the finals, and then will be a free agent at the end of the 19/20 season.

Anton Krasotkin, G, Admiral Vladivostok

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One of the top young unsigned and undrafted Russian goaltenders is Anton Krasotkin. He is still only 21 years old and already playing the KHL. This was his second full season in the KHL. Last year, Krasotkin, struggled but this year he looked phenomenal. He posted a 2.40 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Not to mention he played for one of the worst teams in the KHL, Admiral Vladivostok ranked 21st out of 25 teams. He’s very unknown in terms of strengths and weaknesses, but he is 6’0″ and 179 pounds. Anton Krasotkin, is currently signed for one more year.

Conclusion

These are just some of the possible undrafted european free agents that may come over to North America after next season. Many other players that aren’t on the NHL radar could have a breakout season and be targets for NHL teams. This isn’t even taking the NCAA free agent crop into account. Expect to see more NCAA players to sign next season as there are always players who either leave school early to sign professional contracts or the player has graduated and they are ready to take the next step in their hockey careers. 

Who Should Sign Nail Yakupov This Offseason?

According to Russia’s AllHockey, multiple NHL teams are interested in signing Nail Yakupov. The question is, who?

Who is Nail Yakupov?

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Nail Yakupov, listed at 5’11” and 194 lbs, is a 25 year-old who is currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He was drafted Second overall by the Sarnia Sting in 2010. Yakupov, a native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, moved to Canada at the young age of 17 to play for the OHL club. Yakupov took the OHL by storm, as the speedy winger scored 101 points in just 65 games. This incredible season led to immediate anticipation for the forward’s NHL future. Yakupov remained dominant in the OHL for the 2011-12 season (69P-42GP), leading to the birth of the “Fail for Nail” catchphrase. The perennially bad Edmonton Oilers selected Nail Yakupov 1st overall in the 2012 NHL Draft (the Oilers’ 3rd straight 1st overall pick). Unfortunately for Nail, his NHL career so far has been one of befuddling mismanagement.

Is Yakupov Really That Bad?

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Nail Yakupov made his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season, following the conclusion of a 4 month-long labour dispute (Sept. 2012-Jan. 2013). Despite the drawbacks of missing 4 months of professional training, Yakupov had a productive rookie season, recording 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games.

Over the next 3 seasons, all of which were spent with the Albertan franchise, Yakupov produced 80 points in 204 (a total of 111 points in 252 games with the Oilers). This totals are solid, although not fantastic, and certainly not up to the superstar forward expectations the forward set for himself. Over this time on the (still) poor Oilers, Yakupov averaged 14:42 of ice time (3rd line comparable) and an abysmal 46.3 CF% while running with a PDO of 96.6, which is also poor.

According to Dom Galamini’s Hero Charts, Yakupov’s last 3 seasons in the NHL have been comparable to 4th line, defensively minded players. Neither of those aspects make Nail an especially good player and are certainly not what Yak was advertised as. However, there is a player to be salvaged in Yakupov.

Deployment

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Despite what Yakupov’s lackluster production and ho-hum analytics suggest, a large part of Yakupov’s downfall can be attributed to deployment. According to SB Nation’s Copper and Blue, Yakupov’s most common line-mates in Edmonton were:

  • Sam Gagner (solid, middle-six forward)
  • Derek Roy (3rd line center)
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st line center on most teams)
  • Mark Arcobello (inconsistent bottom six forward)
  • Mark Letestu (defensively minded 4th line Center)

All of Gagner, Nugent-Hopkins, and Roy are solid play-making centers that have worked well with Yak. although, each centre had a revolving door of other wingers that have hurt both Yakupov and the centers themselves. Arcobello is an inconsistent scorer whom has solid shooting tendencies but is by no means a top-six player. Mark Letestu is an okay player, whom is most known for his defensive abilities, not exactly the type of player that you want to pair with a pure scorer.

A connection can also be made between Yakupov’s struggles and line mates, ice time, and production.

For example, the majority of Yakupov’s rookie season was spent with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. While averaging 14:34 of ice-time (middle-six comparable minutes), playing with a play-making center (Gagner) and an experienced scoring winger (Hemsky), Yakupov put up a career-high 17 goals and 31 points. A solid line that was able to produce offense like this was ideal for both a pure scorer (like Yakupov) and the Oilers.

An example of a non-ideal setup for such a scorer was playing with inconsistent, defensively minded players. Such a setup was used throughout Yakupov’s final season with the club, when Nail suited up alongside Zack Kassian and Mark Letestu. This deployment is clearly detrimental to an offensively minded scorer and was a baffling decision for the Oilers to make, seeing as how Yakupov had success with Connor MacDavid.

Can Yakupov actually Produce at a High Level?

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Outside of his time with the Oilers, Yakupov (while averaging 10:47 minutes of ice time, 4th line comparable) produced 12 goals and 25 points in 98 games (with STL and COL). Needless to say, this production is abysmal. I’ll be the first to admit that Yakupov’s only saving grace here is strictly his lack of ice-time, with Yak only reaching 5 minutes of ice time for the Avs on some nights.

Yakupov has had a couple productive seasons with the Oilers. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much luck outside of the Oilers organization, which seems like an oxymoron at this point.

Despite his disappointing production (which can once again be credited to deployment), Yakupov still clearly possesses a high level of scoring ability, which was something that Nail wasn’t afraid to show in the KHL this season. In 47 games with SKA St. Petersburg, Yakupov had 23 goals and 33 points. Surprisingly, Yakupov was able to achieve this production while averaging just 14:10 of ice time. (Once again, deployment is key)

St. Petersburg is considered a powerhouse in the KHL. It often is the go-to team for former NHL players (such as Ilya Kovalchuck, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeny Dadonov). This makes distribution of players a complex and touchy science in that league. Despite Yakupov playing mainly 3rd line KHL minutes, production wise, he is similar to a 2nd line NHL player. Prorated to NHL numbers using NHLE  it rounds out to roughly 42p per 82gp, which is an impressive feat.

Who Needs Nail Yakupov?

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Yakupov is a perfect fit for many NHL teams. Being a relatively young, fast, offensively minded forward, Yakupov can be the missing piece in many teams’ top nine forward groups. Listed below are 5 teams that could use a Nail Yakupov in their lineup as soon as possible.

Arizona Coyotes (37-33-7, 81P in 77GP, 200 GF)

Currently sitting outside of the playoffs with 81 points and 5 games remaining, The Coyotes have made huge improvements over last season’s disappointment. They added scoring in Michael Grabner and Nick Schmaltz, making big impacts (when healthy). Despite these efforts, the team is 4th last in Goals For (GF). The Yotes’ top six forward group would most definitely welcome the addition of Nail Yakupov, whom could replace quite a few players (a-la Brad Richardson, Josh Archibald). Playing Yak with Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk would be ideal, even trying Yak with Galch and Clayton Keller would be interesting.

Dallas Stars (41-31-6, 88P in 78GP, 198 GF)

Sitting on a 5 point-cushion over the Colorado Avalanche in the standings, the Stars have long over-achieved while lacking useful depth, a curse that often catches up with the Texan franchise come playoffs. Outside of the big-three of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov, the Stars have little forward depth, with a 24 point deficit between Jamie Benn (52 points) and the next highest scoring forward (Radek Faksa, 28 points).

Now that’s horsesh*t.

Yakupov would be a welcome and much-needed addition to the teams’ mediocre forward core. Pairing Yak with the Stars’ most capable center (outside of Seguin) would be ideal, although the Stars aren’t likely to resign Jason Spezza. A nice alternative option would be actually signing known top 6 forwards, such as Matt Duchene.

Buffalo Sabres (31-36-10, 72P in 77GP, 211 GF)

Officially being eliminated from playoff contention last week, the Sabres’ season came to a unexplainably disappointing end. All is chaos once again in Buffalo. A far cry from the joyous gloating that took over the city following a 10-game winning streak in November. Despite valiant effort(s) to increase scoring through the acquisition of Connor Sheary and Jeff Skinner, the team still sits 6th last in GF. Yakupov would definitely strengthen Buffalo’s weak situation on the wings.

Edmonton Oilers (34-34-9, 77P in 77GP, 223 GF)

Nope. No. Never. Maybe? They’re always weak on the wings. No. Noooooooooooo. Nope. Never again. Please God nooooooooooooooooooooooo. This would be the funniest and probably worst option for Nail overall, so no. Seriously, no.

Carolina Hurricanes (42-28-7, 91P in 77GP, 228 GF)

Probably the most favorable option for Yakupov, the Hurricanes are turning almost all their attention towards acquiring scoring. Whether that’s been through drafting (Svechnikov), trading (V. Rask for Niederreiter), or signings (Williams). Yakupov could easily replace Michal Ferland (whom is dead set on leaving in free agency). Yak, if playing with either the perennially underrated Teuvo Teravainen or superstar Sebastian Aho, could easily score 20 goals and 40 points.

Conclusion

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Despite being horribly mismanaged since his sophomore season, Nail Yakupov has shown that he is a capable offensive player. One that can and should be able to definitely play meaningful minutes at the NHL level. There will be many suitors if he decides to hit the FA market this summer. Teams would be incredibly wise to invest in the much maligned sniper.

Resources retrieved from NHL.com, en.khl.ru, eliteprospects.com, hockey-reference.com, @CompleteHkyNews on Twitter.com, ownthepuck.blogspot.com, coppernblue.com, frozen pool.dobbersports.com, and dailyfaceoff.com