When word got out this weekend that Nail Yakupov had requested a trade from the Edmonton Oilers, I found it hard to believe, considering he was doing well with Connor McDavid earlier this year and had found his game last year alongside Derek Roy as well; it turns out the main reason would be his relegation to third line duties and lack of decent playing time, so we'll see how that develops.
But the comments section on many websites were getting rather mean, going to great lengths to insult him; one such comment was that he was "the biggest choke job since Alexandre Daigle", which I thought was disingenuous for more than one reason, attacking two players who did not deserve it.
Let's compare a bit, shall we?
First off, let's go on "pure stats":
Daigle: 129 goals, 198 assists and 327 points in 616 games. Got a fair amount of Lady Byng votes in 2003-04. Not numbers that scream "First Overall Pick", and not close to the second pick of the 1993 draft, Hall Of Famer Chris Pronger, but still a player I'd choose ahead of the third pick, Chris Gratton. Thus, NHL material, for sure. Add to that 166 points in 164 Swiss League games and 71 points in 72 AHL games, and the fact that his entire NHL career took place in the Dead Puck Era (1994-2004) and you've got a case that he isn't the worst pick one could make, though he's not a game changer per se.
Yakupov, so far: 48 goals, 59 assists and 107 points in 248 games. He's barely 22. He was chosen ahead of the likes of Ryan Murray (2nd), Alex Galchenyuk (3rd), Morgan Rielly (5th), Hampus Lindholm (6th), Mathew Dumba (7th), Jacob Trouba (9th), Slater Koekkoek (10th), Mikhail Grigorenko (12th), Cody Ceci (15th), Teuvo Teravainen (18th), Olli Maata (22nd), Mike Matheson (23rd), Malcolm Subban (24th), Colton Sissons (50th), Dalton Thrower (51st), Joonas Korpisalo (62nd), Shayne Gostisbehere (78th) and Matt Murray (83rd).
And, no offense to all of these guys who have already achieved more in hockey than I ever did, but I don't see any of them knocking on the Hall Of Fame's doors, save perhaps for Murray if he keeps improving and dominating at every level.
So Yakupov was part of a weak draft, which means his being the #1 pick isn't entirely his fault to begin with.
In terms of first-overall busts, one might be more inclined to look at Patrik Stefan, however, the first pick in 1999, whose career stats in the NHL read: 64 goals, 124 assists and 188 points in 455 games, numbers that Yakupov could surpass in two decent years or three average-to-mediocre ones.
And just to dig further in, here are five others from the Class of 1999: Daniel Sedin (2nd), Henrik Sedin (3rd), Martin Havlat (26th), Mike Comrie (91st), and Henrik Zetterberg (210th). That's three Hall Of Famers and two All-Stars. Those are mistakes a GM pays for dearly. In this case, Don Wadell was given the chance to mess the franchise up again, enough to only make the playoffs once in its entire history, but also to get pretty much nothing in return for Marian Hossa to ensure they never make the post-season ever again. He now works in the upper echelons of the Carolina Hurricanes' parent company, so he'll have a chance to move a second team to Canada in a matter of weeks (or months).
But back to Daigle, whose trade value went from Pat Falloon and Vaclav Prospal to Andrei Kovalenko to Alexander Selivanov to cash. He became a decent two-way player under Jacques Lemaire with the Minnesota Wild, even leading the team in scoring with 51 points (20 goals and 31 assists) in 2003-04.
He has suited up for Team Canada three times: twice at the World Juniors (1993 and 1995, with 16 total points in 14 games, winning gold both times) as well as the 2009 Spengler Cup (2 goals on a team that was ousted by the champs Minsk Dinamo in the semifinal), an event he'd played in previously three times with HC Davos, with whom he also won three Swiss league championships.
Here he is wearing his country's white ("home") uniform from the 1995 World Juniors, from Upper Deck's 1995-96 Be A Player set (and World Class sub-set):