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Sidney Crosby is one of the best hockey players since Wayne Gretzky. But hockey fans are always looking for the next superstar. Several scouts think 18-year-old Nail Yakupov has the potential to be another "Great One." And based on the time STACK spent with him, we think they are on to something.
Yakupov was selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL Draft. To prepare for the upcoming—yet still unfortunately locked out—NHL season, he has been training in Detroit with his mentor and Red Wings legend, Igor Larionov.
Yakupov's day started with an on-ice practice with five of his Russian compatriots—including Sergei Samsonov, most recently with the Florida Panthers, and Andrei Loktionov of the Los Angeles Kings. Larionov moved the players through a few drills focused on stickhandling, changing direction and shooting. However, the highlight of the practice were competition drills: one-on-one corner battles and a three-on-three scrimmage. We were thoroughly impressed with Yakupov's explosive speed and agility, lethal shot and knack for scoring. Despite his young age, he looked like a veteran on the ice.
After practice, Yakupov grabbed some fruit and headed over to 2SP in Madison Heights for a strength workout. Owner and head performance specialist Joe Neal has designed a program that increases Yakupov's overall strength, power and athleticism, while making him more durable . In this particular workout, he performed three combos, each featuring an explosive exercise followed by a prowler drill.
It’s easy for athletes—particularly ones as young and as talented as Yakupov—to go through the motions. But this guy did not take a single rep off. He went all out during the entire session, sweating profusely and breathing hard, even on the verge of losing his lunch at the end. It's clear that Yakupov is doing everything he can to make an impact in the NHL.
Stay tuned for his Yakupov's full workout, appearing in the Fall 2012 issue of STACK magazine. Also, watch STACK.com for on-ice and workout footage showcasing this future NHL star. In the meantime, check out STACK's coverage of Mike Green and Jordan Eberle's training.