Nail Yakupov is off to a very fast start. His best ever, as a matter of fact,
Last season, Yakupov didn't score his eighth point until December 7th, in his 27th game. By then, he was already minus-11. He had eight points by November 19th in the 2013-14 season, in his 21st game, and he was a minus-14. As a rookie, the young man who was already known as Yak City scored his eighth point in his tenth game, and he was a minus-6.
It's still early days of this new season, but Connor McDavid seems, somewhat unsurprisingly, to be just the tonic that Yakupov needed.
After two years of trending in the wrong direction, Yakupov seems to be grabbing the opportunity and turning his career back around. I know we're way beyond plus/minus in the stats world, but in Yakupov's case it seems to tell a bit of a truthful tale. He struggled mightily in the last two seasons and posted minuses in the 30s in each year, but after nine games of 2015-16 he's a plus-1. That's something that's never happened for him before in the early going,
Yakupov is on pace for over 70 points, which seems a bit lofty considering what we know about the player. His 5x5 on-ice shooting percentage of 11.67 is 80th among NHL forwards who have played at least five games. For some context, that on-ice shooting percentage would have been 7th-highest among every NHL forward who played at least 40 games last year. So we're looking at a bit of a lucky streak.
But is a final total of, say, 20-25-45 over a full season out of the question for Yakupov? Even those modest numbers would make for his best offensive output to date. Strip away his draft position and it's clear that that's very valuable secondary scoring from a player making just $2.5 million.
I don't want to get too ahead of myself though. By eye, it seems like the player is enjoying the game again, and that's almost as nice to see as the scoring touch returning. Let the good times roll.