As noted last week, Yakupov's suspension last week didn't seem to faze the young Russian superstar. He maintained his #1 rank in ISS draft rankings last week while scoring a goal in all but one game since his return. The projected number-one selection for this June's NHL Entry Draft also had a very pretty goal in his Sarnia Sting's 6-2 win over London Monday afternoon.
With the Sting up 4-2 over the Knights midway through the third period, with Jack Kuzmyk and Max Domi in the box for each team, Nail Yakupov took advantage of a little extra space for one of the finest individual efforts we've seen on the season, showing off his speed, puck-control, fearlessness and his shot. Take a look:
This is a classic Russian goal, something right out of both the 1972 Summit Series and his here Pavel Bure's playbook. After skating into a closed space cut off by London defenseman Jarred Tinordi, Yakupov turned around, and, using the extra space created by the 4-on-4, used his speed to escape Andreas Athanasiou doing almost a full circle without the puck so much as flirting with any part of the physical universe that wasn't Nail's stick.
Of course, the move is dangerous: Yakupov needs to control the puck and maintain his speed. There's no defenseman back there behind him and if anything goes wrong on this move, Athanasiou is away, and as good as he is, we probably have a 4-3 hockey game on our hands.
But Yakupov manages to hold onto the puck and ignoring his linemate Ryan Spooner, makes use of the available space to charge directly at Tinordi, now skating backwards.
What I like about this so much is that there are four guys for London on the ice, and none of them seem too concerned with anybody but Yakupov, who went from the red line to his defensive blue line, to the offensive blue line in 4 and a half seconds.
After that, is there anything Yakupov is going to try to do but finish the play off on his own? Spooner knows it, he's casually joined the rush. The Sting defense are changing and there's no trailer in the middle of the ice. Right now it's just Yakupov, Tinordi and London goalie Michael Houser. Yakupov uses Tinordi as a screen and rifled one Houser's shoulder, getting so much torque on the shot, casually turning a fake toe-drag move into a wind up for a wrist shot.
There are so many things about this goal to love, one that colour guy Barry Wright described as "just nasty" and maybe "one of the best goals of the season".
Cam Charron is a hockey writer at large who covers the WHL for Buzzing the Net. Follow him on Twitter @camcharron.
- Sarnia Sting