Top 2012 NHL Draft pick Nail Yakupov has extreme skill and boundless confidence. He is fully equipped to make a big impact as a rookie.
The Edmonton Oilers will surround him with elite offensive talent while playing a go-go style. So how can this not turn out well?
Nail scored 170 points in 107 games in the Ontario Hockey League while generating comparisons to former Russian star Pavel Bure. He should follow the lead of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to quickly blossom into a 50- to 70-point scorer.
With his family moving to Edmonton to support him, his transition to the NHL should go more smoothly. This should be quite a show.
Other potential breakout forwards include:
James van Riemsdyk, C, Maple Leafs: The second overall pick in the 2007 draft has never scored more than 21 goals in a season. That could change this season as Toronto converts him into a scoring line center. JVR scored 16 points in his first 19 games last season in Philadelphia before a series of injuries ruined his campaign. During the 2011 playoffs he scored seven goals while putting 70 shots on goal in 11 games. If he can play the pivot, he will create serious match-up problems coming down the middle.
Brayden Schenn, C, Flyers: He appears ready to graduate into a major offensive role after scoring 12 goals in 54 games last season. His reunion with big brother Luke – acquired from Toronto in an off-season trade – should bolster his spirits. “For me and Luke, we’re pretty close,” Brayden told the National Post. “To get a chance to play with each other on the same team, it’s pretty surreal. It’s almost like we can’t even believe it.”
Vladimir Tarasenko, W, Blues: At the age of21 he already has four years of KHL experience. He scored 23 goals in 54 games last season for Novosibirsk Siber and St. Petersburg SKA. He was captain of Russia’s gold-medal winning team in the World Junior Championships two years ago. The Blues see him playing on one of their three scoring lines and bidding for power play time as well.
Cody Hodgson, C, Sabres: In Vancouver he was stuck behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. In Buffalo he could emerge as the No. 1 center in the wake of Derek Roy’s departure to Dallas. Hodgson didn’t get a point in his first 10 games as a Sabre last season, but a later eight-game surge saw him score three goals and add five assists. He could benefit went Buffalo stages a major bounce-back season.
Mikael Granlund, C, Wild: While Minnesota is fixated on free agent additions Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and rightfully so. Those additions cost the franchise almost $200 million. But Granlund could be a huge difference maker. He tied for the Finnish Elite League’s scoring title (51 points in 45 games) last season. He could move into the No, 2 center role behind Mikko Koivu.
Chris Kreider, W, Rangers: This bulldozing winger from Boston College scored five playoff goals while demonstrating his vast upside. He scored 23 goals in 44 games during his third collegiate season. He could at least match the 14 goals and 24 assists that teammate Carl Hagelin scored in games last season as a rookie.
Kyle Turris, C, Senators: The third overall pick of the 2007 draft could finally arrive as a scoring line pivot. Ottawa gave him a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension, so expect that team to give him every chance to post numbers. He scored 12 goals and added 17 assists with a plus-12 rating in 49 games for the Senators last season.
Cam Atkinson, W, Blue Jackets: After scoring 29 goals in 51 AHL games, he scored seven goals and added seven assists in 27 games for the Columbus. With Rick Nash gone, the Blue Jackets will try to score by committee. Atkinson will definitely be part of that committee.
Peter Mueller, W, Panthers: Remember him? Back in 2009-10 he scored nine goals and added 11 assists in just 15 games after arriving in Colorado in a trade. Injuries eradicated him in 2010-11 and limited him to 16 points in 32 games last season. Florida will give him a second chance to become a big-time scorer.