While scrolling through Instagram on Sunday, I came across some random post someone had made claiming a certain 1st overall pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as being “the biggest bust in NHL Entry Draft history”. Of course, that got me thinking.
In seven seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and Dallas Stars, Stefan amassed 188 points in his career, while Yakupov has had just 120 points in five seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues.
This offseason, the Colorado Avalanche are taking a shot on Yakupov, who might have reached his last chance to make an impact at the NHL level– if not make something of his career (which might be in jeopardy, as well).
While Stefan had 26.9 points per season compared to Yakupov’s average of 24 points a season, Yakupov’s first NHL season was shortened to just 48 games thanks to the 2012-2013 lockout and has yet to see a full 82-game season without injury or being scratched from the lineup.
Stefan, of course, did have the 2004-2005 season long lockout to overcome, but played in 72 games in his rookie season of 1999-2000 with Atlanta.
For more comparison, Stefan’s rookie campaign witnessed five goals and 20 assists for 25 points and a minus-20 rating in 72 games played. Yakupov, in 48 games, produced 17-14-31 totals with a minus-4 rating.
Of course, there’s always sample size to consider.
Stefan played in 455 career NHL games, while Yakupov has only played in 292 career games thus far.
In points per game, the matchup’s pretty even. Yakupov has 2.43 points per game which is only .01 better than Stefan’s 2.42 points per game.
Then again, Yakupov does have an edge in a little over half the time than Stefan’s points per game ratio.
The fact of the matter is that Stefan cracked an NHL roster on a consistent basis, regardless of the lack of quality star-power in the Thrashers lineup over the years.
Yakupov, while plagued by injury, was often a healthy scratch for the Blues last season and signed with a team that’s coming off the worst season anyone’s seen in the last 20 years.
And that doesn’t even get at the fact that Edmonton had three consecutive years (2010, 2011, 2012) of the 1st overall pick in what should have been prime rebuilding time– fully incorporating Yakupov as part of the solution– before drafting their savior in Connor McDavid in 2015.
The 2016-2017 Avalanche were the worst team in the salary cap era and while they’ve made some improvements to their roster, there’s still nothing to show for the Ryan O’Reilly trade– which is another argument for another time.
Nail Yakupov alone does not make the 2017-2018 Colorado Avalanche that much better.
Most fans will always remember Patrik Stefan for his empty net gaffe that almost cost the Stars a win against the Oilers about a decade ago (Dallas went on to win in a shootout), but at least fans remember something about Stefan, whereas with his career teetering on the edge, Yakupov runs the risk of not being remembered for anything on his way out.
Both players have had minimal impact in their careers. Stefan came into the league riding on the waves of an expansion team that wasn’t expected to be great even a year or two out from his draft day. Yakupov joined the Oilers in the midst of high expectations for a perpetual rebuild.
Both were offset due to injuries.
So yes, for now, Yakupov might be the biggest 1st overall bust in the history of the NHL Entry Draft (which dates back to 1963), because of a little thing called perspective. He was supposed to be part of a trifecta of 1st overall picks that would kickstart the Oilers.
But he still has another chance to prove everyone wrong and prolong his career– thanks, in part, to Colorado’s 1-year, $875,000 contract.