THEN: A relative unknown in North America when he earned a spot as a 16-year-old under-ager on Russia’s under-18 team, Yakupov was a role player on the Russian team that won bronze at the 2009 World Junior A Challenge in Summerside, P.E.I. After going scoreless through the preliminary round, he picked up a goal and an assist, both on the power play, in a 6-3 semifinal loss to the Americans, and scored into an empty net to clinch a 6-2 bronze medal game win over Canada East, helping the Russians to their first medal since winning bronze at the inaugural World Junior A Challenge in 2006.
NOW: After finishing the 2009-10 season with Reaktor Nizhnekamsk of the MHL, Yakupov was selected second overall in the 2010 CHL Import Draft by the Sarnia Sting and dominated the OHL during his rookie season in 2010-11, breaking Steven Stamkos’ records for goals and assists by a Sarnia rookie (49 goals, 101 points) and winning the OHL and CHL Rookie of the Year awards. He also racked up 13 points in seven games at the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championship, cementing his status as a top prospect for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Yakupov returned to Sarnia for his draft year and recorded 69 points (31G, 38A) in 42 games, along with nine points at the World Juniors, helping Russia to a silver medal. The Edmonton Oilers took him with the first-overall selection at the 2012 NHL draft, making him the first World Junior A Challenge alumnus to earn that honour.