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Is Nail Yakupov starting to figure things out?

Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers

NHLI via Getty Images

Aside from being months away from grabbing yet another can’t-miss prospect, there haven’t been a lot of bright sides for the Edmonton Oilers to look on. Nail Yakupov’s last two months might be one point of optimism, though.

The team’s most wayward No. 1 overall pick has looked positively lost at times during his first three years in the NHL, inspiring at least some thoughts that maybe he was rushed to the top league. Even at 21, especially impatient observers probably were getting worried about the budding sniper.

While his possession stats argue that there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the top pick of the 2012 NHL Draft is at least starting to produce some offense lately.

Seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel?

He extended a five-game point streak last night with a goal and an assist, giving him three goals and three assists in that span. After only generating 12 points in his first 50 games this season, Yakupov now has 16 points in his last 20.

Again, it doesn’t take that long to find something to nitpick; Yakupov also has a -8 rating in his more positive last two months, giving him a -33 mark that matches last year’s troubling total. Many rightly dismiss plus/minus as a stat that often reflects the quality of one’s team (and/or linemates) more than anything else, yet more traditional-stats-minded people will use that to question how much progress the young Russian has really made.

Still, when you consider the fact that he only managed a goal in a 21-game span from November 13 - Dec. 30, generating a long stretch where he scores in almost every game is a breath of fresh air.

A feel-good story

It seems like he’s generating some positive press off of the ice, too.

There was a buzz created as word surfaced about Yakupov’s generosity toward a homeless man, but he just shrugged it off to QMI.

“I usually like to give money to homeless, guys sitting with animals, cats or dogs,” Yakupov said. “It’s a touching moment. I can’t just walk by. I always like to give them something to buy some food.”

Yakupov and the Oilers still have a long, long way to go, but at least there are finally some signs of progress for the struggling prospect.

Follow James O’Brien @cyclelikesedins