Alexander Yakushev

The Big Yak, Alexander Yakushev, was the Soviets leading scorer and only trailed Phil Esposito by one point in the overall scoring lead. His 7 goals tied him with Espo and Paul Henderson for the lead. Four times he was named as the Soviet's game MVP. A giant, stone-faced left winger, Yakushev thrived in the slot and was to Team Russia as Phil Esposito was to Team Canada. There is no question that the Big Yak would have been a first line NHLer on any NHL team.
"Paul Henderson and I have a similar story," he said. "Neither of us was considered a great star before the series. Now hockey fans in the Soviet Union and Canada know our names. In later years, I became one of the great players on the national team. This series was the turning point in my career."

Alexander Yakushev was a rarity in Soviet Hockey, especially back in the 1960's and 1970's when he played. He was a giant. Most Russians were stereotyped as small, speedy and slick stickhandlers.

"Big Yak" was a lanky and elegant scoring machine. He was the equivalent to Team Russia as Phil Esposito was to Team Canada. Each player dominated their respective offensive slots. Yakushev was immovable, but he had goal scorer hands. In fact, he led the Soviet squad in scoring during that famed 1972 Summit Series. He had 7 goals, 4 assists for 11 points in 8 games.

While there has always been arguments that many of the speedy and skilled Soviets couldn't have survived very long in the 1970's NHL, there is little doubt that Alexander Yakushev would have been a top line player on any team. His size intimidated, his offensive instincts amazed, and his stature is truly legendary.

Like so many great Russian and Eastern European hockey stars during the 1960s, 1970s and even parts of the 1980s, we were almost completely robbed of enjoying the immense package of skills many of these players had to offer. Politics and differing societies led to this.

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