The Nail Yakupov trade to the St. Louis Blues was a welcome surprise. The low-risk, high-reward move immediately gave Blues fans another story to follow in 2016-17 and so far it’s been a successful one.
Through three games, Yakupov has looked like a legitimate offensive threat. He already has one goal and one assist on the season (he set up Magnus Paajarvi for a goal which is one hell of an accomplishment) and he has had several other chances which either narrowly missed or couldn’t be converted by one of his teammates. He’s been quick in the offensive zone and has looked dangerous on numerous occasions. He already has added another layer to the team’s offense which wasn’t there in the preseason.
Yakupov’s biggest detractors will point to his defense as his biggest weakness. To date, he hasn’t been too bad. That’s not to say he’s been great on defense, but he’s been better than all of the talk and negativity would have led you to believe. He’s been tracking back and for the most part he’s been keeping up with his man and disrupting passing lanes. There’s been some mistakes, but most of them have looked like an issue of chemistry and familiarity rather than straight up bad defensive work.
Again, it’s early. A lot can happen over the course of the full season. It’s possible Yakupov will cool and slow down once the initial adrenaline of being with a new team wears off. It’s also possible he’ll continue contributing as a key member of this team’s offense. Time will tell.