Colorado Avalanche winger Nail Yakupov will be missed by fans next season.
When he joined the Colorado Avalanche it didn’t take long for Nail Yakuov to become a favorite of mine. After the 2016-17 Season of Sadness it was a breath of fresh air to be introduced to a player who was laughing and joking with his teammates. He was clearly going to be fun to watch.
Looking at Yakupov’s year with the Avs it would be easy to focus on the numbers. Of course I was disappointed when things trailed off for him, especially when it led to him being a healthy scratch for a lot of the latter half of the season.
But that’s not what I think of when I think about his time with the Avs. What I remember is someone who was always smiling. Even when he hadn’t seen ice time for a while, he always had a smile on his face. That says something to me about the type of person he is, and about what he brings to the locker room.
One of the downsides of being an Avs fan living in England is that the only games you can watch without staying up until 2am are the matinee games. Fortunately, one aired fairly early in the season and it happened to be the game where Yakupov scored his first goal with the Avalanche.
Seeing the pure joy on his face as he stood there with his arms open, beckoning his teammates in for a hug, was exhilarating. It was impossible not to smile, and in that moment Yakupov sealed himself as one of my favorites.
In November 2017 I got to see the Avs play in person when the team came to Sweden for the NHL Global Series. Who scored first? Nail Yakupov.
Was I a good luck charm for Yak? More data is probably needed, but it was certainly the highlight of the evening for me. The first goal you get to see your team score in person always stays with you, and it made me so happy that my first goal came from one of my favorites.
Yakupov went out of his way to make sure the fans had fun too. Often during warm-ups he’d be seen tossing pucks over the glass and messing around with kids who had come to watch.
That’s what I’ll think of when I think back to the 2017-18 season. Yes, it was an amazing story of how the team bounced back and made the playoffs a year after one of the worst seasons on record. But it’s also when we saw the team smiling, laughing, and having fun again.
I’m not saying that was all down to Yakupov, but I feel he was an influencing factor. It’s no surprise, to me, that he was voted Best Teammate in the social media fan nominated Avs Awards. He clearly left a positive impression on a lot of fans.
At the time of writing this it’s not known where Yakupov will end up next. He’s expressed an interest in staying in the NHL and there are rumors that a few teams have expressed an interest in him. I really want him to succeed wherever he goes next, and I think that with the right coach and the right environment there’s no reason why that couldn’t happen.
But, for now, I want to thank Nail Yakupov for his time with the Colorado Avalanche and for making me smile through this past season. I hope you’re happy wherever you end up next, and I’m sure this sentiment is echoed by a lot of other Avs fans.
Nail Yakupov is heading to the KHL. That’s not to say the 24-year-old is finished with the NHL, but for the next two years he’ll be in Russia.