FTHM PART II: RNH AND MATTERS OF SIZE

Robin Brownlee
May 03 2011 08:19PM

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn't have any trouble measuring up when it comes to talent and hockey sense, but in a league where the perception has long been that size matters and bigger is better, he doesn't fare as well when NHL scouts take out the tape measure and scale.

So, while the 18-year-old center from Burnaby doesn't have to take a backseat to anybody in terms of the former after tallying 106 points in 69 games with the Red Deer Rebels this season, it's the latter that has some people wondering if bigger might be better.

That's a question Edmonton Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor and his staff will be tossing around between now and the 2011 Entry Draft in Minnesota, where the Oilers will follow up the selection of Taylor Hall in 2010 with No. 1 pick for the second year in a row.

At just a touch over six-feet and weighing just 165 pounds, Nugent-Hopkins is eye-to-eye with other top-rated prospects like Adam Larsson, Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier and Jonathan Huberdeau in terms of skill, but not stature.

How, exactly, does that fact play into the equation for MacGregor and the Oilers, who already have a roster laden with smaller forwards like Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Linus Omark and Andrew Cogliano who don't play a robust, physical style?

It's a fair question, and one I asked MacGregor.

MEASURING UP

While Nugent-Hopkins certainly isn't the second-coming of legendary mites like Bobby Lalonde or Steve Tsujiura -- you have to be a fossil to remember those big talents in little bodies -- and isn't much smaller than Huberdeau, who is half-an-inch taller and 170 pounds, there's no question he isn't an imposing physical specimen. He likely never will be.

"Will he get big enough? Will he get strong enough to play in the NHL? I don't know if size is an issue in terms of height, but he will have to get stronger," MacGregor said.

"He's six feet and half-an-inch, that's what Central Scouting has him at. The issue is, is he going to put on enough poundage to handle the rigors of the NHL?"

That's a question that's been asked about a lot of players who turned out just fine, as in Hall of Fame fine, like Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman, who were all scrawny, pencil-necked kids as NHL rookies.

Of course, just mentioning three of the greatest players to ever lace on skates draws a groan from MacGregor, as you'd expect.

GROWING PAINS

"I've never been one who likes to compare players, especially when you get to Gretzky. Like, come on," MacGregor said.

"Yzerman was drafted at 155 pounds. Sakic wasn't very big either. I'm not comparing this guy to those guys because they're hall-of-famers, but remember these guys are 17 and 18 years old.

"The question is, can he put on the weight that gives him the strength and power? Those guys did, so obviously it's not impossible to do that. Now, is it possible for him to do that?"

Obviously, it's tough to say for sure with an 18-year-old. Fitness programs and diet aside, Nugent-Hopkins should put on size naturally as he matures. He has an older brother who is the same height and his father is shorter. Both are "thicker," according to MacGregor.

I'll get into what MacGregor had to say about other aspects of Nugent-Hopkins game later in this series, but my read is he puts other attributes ahead of size when it comes to this player.

"He's got great hockey sense and he's got great skill," MacGregor said.

BY THE NUMBERS

There is also concern in some circles that Nugent-Hopkins scored 59 of his 106 points this season on the power play and that his even-strength numbers don't stack up favourably against other top forwards. That's not a fact lost on MacGregor.

"I guess you can look at it any way you want and we will have those discussions," he said. "There will be somebody who will bring that up in our meetings. They are important things to discuss."

Discussion about the breakdown of the numbers put up by Nugent-Hopkins -- he finished fourth in WHL scoring and was the youngest player in that group -- is one thing. Consternation about them is another.

"I've watched the kid play at both ends and he seems to do a lot of things on the power play and 5-on-5, so it's not a real issue at this point," said MacGregor.

"He had the same number of points that Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin did last year. He rose to the occasion enough to be the leading scorer with his team and one of the top five in the WHL. He didn't have a lot of guys to play with, but in the games I saw he was the guy who stirred the drink."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 ken
May 04 2011, 01:11PM
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You cant compare RNH to Turris.He was drafted out of tier 2 and was a huge stretch to be picked at #3.He was the highest pick a tier 2 player has ever been taken. I never saw Turris in junior but i saw him a lot in Phoenix and while he has a super shot he never made any plays or competed for the puck.The lack of compete for the puck or grit is why he doesnt get any ice time . RNH plays in a vastly superior league than bcjl makes plays and competes for the puck. The size of a player does not give them grit a lot of the tougher players while not small are medium sized.RNH looks like he has the genes to be that size.

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#52 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 04 2011, 01:24PM
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Oilfan00 wrote:

The right answer is watching a player play, obviously if you only see them once then it changes things but the scouts watch these players play multiple games, stats can't show ability and skills it helps understand (aka set up man more assists, sniper more goals) but you can't judge a player if you haven't seen him play. I think advanced stats are helpful in some regards but your eyes don't lie stats also don't tell what kind goal or assist it was. I think that is why RNH is ranked #1 because the people that have seen him play (The scouts) have seen that his skating is superior he is straw that stirs the drink for his team and his size isn't an issue because he goes into the corners and comes out the puck. Just my two cents.

Do you think he would still be ranked #1 if he put up 80 points this past year?

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#53 tapdog
May 04 2011, 01:43PM
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Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!" wrote:

A potential power forward with a right handed shot would be very nice. Bean town may be interested and if it ever happened it would be the story of the summer. I often wonder IF any Oiler management ever reads any thing ever posted on these blogs as far as micro stats or how we think just to find new perspectives. I doubt it but smart people look everywhere for insights.

Jeez you make that trade and you would have Hall, Eberle, MPS AND Seguin all needing contracts at the same time!!

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#54 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
May 04 2011, 01:48PM
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tapdog wrote:

Jeez you make that trade and you would have Hall, Eberle, MPS AND Seguin all needing contracts at the same time!!

Is it legal to void the ELC and instead sign players to a long term deal to spread out cap hit? I would not do it with most of our rookies but Hall & Eberle are the real deal and paying them a few million now would really ease the pain 3-7 years from now? I for one would be willing to sign them both to 8 year + deals NOW!

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#55 db7db7db7
May 04 2011, 02:56PM
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"A couple of people high up in the Oilers' organization -- and I'm not naming names -- said Hopkins has the best vision on the ice since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky),"

from: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=561762

Sounds good to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I guess all that's left is to find a McSorley to go with him.

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#56 mayorpoop
May 04 2011, 03:13PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Do you think he would still be ranked #1 if he put up 80 points this past year?

potentially yes, but ever since the folks from penn state paranormal society (and my carny gig)have been using my physic and medium talents i cannot say for sure.

i get the line of thinking (maybe)you are using here as crooked as it may be. one could gather that if all the other intangibles were still there, other than points, he could still be ranked number 1.

i could also guesstimate that had zetterberg put up 4 more points he would of went in the 1st rd.

who knows?

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#57 Quicksilver ballet
May 04 2011, 03:21PM
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tapdog wrote:

Jeez you make that trade and you would have Hall, Eberle, MPS AND Seguin all needing contracts at the same time!!

Only one of those kids may be making in excess of 4 million per when their ELCs expire. I think the Oilers will manage quite easily. Can even see those three being renewed for less than 10 mill total in 2 yrs time. Please add Seguin in there if you want. We'll still have 50 million in cap space with the big 3 signed.

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#58 Oilfan00
May 04 2011, 04:15PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Do you think he would still be ranked #1 if he put up 80 points this past year?

Probably not well I could probably say for sure not, but its hard to say that because of his skill level I would find it hard to believe he would put up 80 points. What I was trying to say is that if he digs the puck out of the corner and finds a teammate wide open and gets an assist it shows more skill then say I shot going off his skate and in for a goal, if that makes sense.

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#59 Oilfan00
May 04 2011, 04:17PM
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Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!" wrote:

Is it legal to void the ELC and instead sign players to a long term deal to spread out cap hit? I would not do it with most of our rookies but Hall & Eberle are the real deal and paying them a few million now would really ease the pain 3-7 years from now? I for one would be willing to sign them both to 8 year + deals NOW!

I might be mistaking but I think you can't negotiate a new contact until after year 2 of the ELC so during their last year you can sign them but you cant in their first two years.

I like this rule as it prevents huge contracts for first rounders and stops ridiculous rookie contracts that have happened in the NFL.

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#60 Westcoastoil
May 04 2011, 04:59PM
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@Robin Brownlee

So is there a weighted matrix?

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#61 jake
May 04 2011, 05:07PM
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Steve Tsujiuri - "where are they now? " - holy cow I remember him from the mid 80s, saw him play a thriller of an AHL playoff game for Maine Mariners vs. Moncton Golden Flames with a young Brett Hull. He was the go to guy for Maine at the time. Man I don't feel like a fosil though.

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#62 madjam
May 04 2011, 05:21PM
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P. Datysuk went from a 19 year old 5ft 7 inch forward of 140 lbs , to a 5ft.11 inch man of 185 lbs .. Pretty amazing transformation i'd say . Now Hopkins just needs to figure out how to add 4 more inches and 45 lbs .. That should make him 6ft 4 inches and 205 lbs . Wonder what kind of food suppliments was Datsyuk on ? Article in Sports Illustrated this week .

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#63 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
May 04 2011, 05:34PM
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madjam wrote:

P. Datysuk went from a 19 year old 5ft 7 inch forward of 140 lbs , to a 5ft.11 inch man of 185 lbs .. Pretty amazing transformation i'd say . Now Hopkins just needs to figure out how to add 4 more inches and 45 lbs .. That should make him 6ft 4 inches and 205 lbs . Wonder what kind of food suppliments was Datsyuk on ? Article in Sports Illustrated this week .

Now Hopkins just needs to figure out how to add 4 more inches

am i the only one who read that and cant stop laughing?

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#64 Dan the Man
May 04 2011, 06:43PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

Now Hopkins just needs to figure out how to add 4 more inches

am i the only one who read that and cant stop laughing?

That's what she said?

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#65 OilMan
May 04 2011, 08:48PM
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@Dan the Man

LOL!

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#66 rickithebear
May 04 2011, 11:44PM
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RNH: is at best a 20 goal scorer: while usually only 120 players can do that. goals win games: the goal scorers are the diffrence makers.

there are 5-10 +40 goal scorers each year. there are 15-20 +35 goal scorers There are 30-40 +30 goal scorers each year there are 50-65 +25 goal scorers each year.

so in a 15yr draft cycle there will be 3-5 25 goal scorers/yr 2-3 30 goal scorers 1-1.5 35 goal scorers .6666 40 goal scorers/year. We got a future 40g Hall We got a future 30G Eberle We got future 25G scorers in MPS, Hartikainen,

Possible +25G: Courtier, Z.phillips,Noesen, Puempel,Landeskog Possible +30G: Koklachev, Possible +35G: Hubredeau, Ritchie

It could be apretty rare year

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#67 Oilfan00
May 05 2011, 12:18AM
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rickithebear wrote:

RNH: is at best a 20 goal scorer: while usually only 120 players can do that. goals win games: the goal scorers are the diffrence makers.

there are 5-10 +40 goal scorers each year. there are 15-20 +35 goal scorers There are 30-40 +30 goal scorers each year there are 50-65 +25 goal scorers each year.

so in a 15yr draft cycle there will be 3-5 25 goal scorers/yr 2-3 30 goal scorers 1-1.5 35 goal scorers .6666 40 goal scorers/year. We got a future 40g Hall We got a future 30G Eberle We got future 25G scorers in MPS, Hartikainen,

Possible +25G: Courtier, Z.phillips,Noesen, Puempel,Landeskog Possible +30G: Koklachev, Possible +35G: Hubredeau, Ritchie

It could be apretty rare year

But what if a player can take a 30 goal scorer to 40 or 50? Wouldn't that count just the same? Say Hall scores 40 regularly and RNH comes in and sets up Hall constantly and Hall jumps to 50, RNH might only score 20 goals (Highly unlikely probably around 30) but he gave Hall an extra ten so wouldn't that to an extent be like him scoring 30? I don't really care who is scoring them as long as they are going in and the Oilers are winning games I am happy.

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#68 madjam
May 05 2011, 09:04AM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

Now Hopkins just needs to figure out how to add 4 more inches

am i the only one who read that and cant stop laughing?

Correction to Datsyuk - he went from 150 lbs. to 194 lbs . (44 lbs .difference ) . How can you predict that sort of increase in size and weight ?

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#69 madjam
May 05 2011, 09:30AM
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MacGregor seems googley eyed over Hopkins on the Oil Change i seen last night . Easy to tell who he likes . Looks like he is sold on Hopkins going being the next Gretsky in his mind . Tambo also seemed to be sold on Hopkins . Are they frightfully over assessing again ? People were paranoid over Hall getting obliterated in NHL , yet everyone seems to coddle Hopkins with kid gloves expecting he can handle the size and physicality of NHL . I'd be a lot more worried about Hopkins than Hall . Comparing Hopkins to Gret's seems rather rediculous .

Have to wonder how many more years we have to go before they wake up and address the backend problems ? Seems like they don't recognize it as a problem as yet ?

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#70 madjam
May 05 2011, 10:53AM
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Red flags going up on all the draftees , but Hopkins being guarded from this . Oilers seem resigned to have this draft year dedicted to one whom is not ready to crack lineup this coming season . That puts The Swedes out of the running . Coutourier they certanly are not defending him on the red flags that are going up around him , or Huberdeau to be honest . Any of others they have given little /shown much attention to .

There appears to be no attention toward moving away from any of our many diminutive forward status . Why , i don't know ? How they expect to compete within our own division is a mystery ?

You'd like to think they know what they are doing , but the more they don't do makes you think the opposit . For starters we are still in 30th spot because they are the ones that put us there , and are keeping us there . When does the shell game end and competitiveness begin ? I doubt they'll answer that question , as they misassummed it already had .

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#71 Oilfan00
May 05 2011, 12:29PM
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@madjam

The Oilers have so many needs it won't solve them all they need a number 1 Center and you could argue a number 2 if they don't have the confidence in Gagner and yes they need D very badly but it might be a while before that D can make an impact (it might not though) I don't think they can go wrong I think its easier to sign veteran D that would help the team more then veteran forwards who can put up points. Plus we have some D prospects in the waiting right now (we still need the number 1) but next years draft is D heavy and not much for Center, I would fill the center void now and address the D next year, well I would with a signing or trade this year as well but draft a D next year.

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#72 dawgbone
May 05 2011, 02:27PM
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madjam wrote:

Correction to Datsyuk - he went from 150 lbs. to 194 lbs . (44 lbs .difference ) . How can you predict that sort of increase in size and weight ?

You can't, which is why he was picked in the 7th round (or whatever it was) and it was the same story with Zetterberg.

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#73 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 05 2011, 02:31PM
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Oilfan00 wrote:

But what if a player can take a 30 goal scorer to 40 or 50? Wouldn't that count just the same? Say Hall scores 40 regularly and RNH comes in and sets up Hall constantly and Hall jumps to 50, RNH might only score 20 goals (Highly unlikely probably around 30) but he gave Hall an extra ten so wouldn't that to an extent be like him scoring 30? I don't really care who is scoring them as long as they are going in and the Oilers are winning games I am happy.

You should check out Crosby's linemates since he came into the leauge to see how unlikly what you are suggesting is.

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#74 Wäx Män Riley
May 05 2011, 03:01PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Only one of those kids may be making in excess of 4 million per when their ELCs expire. I think the Oilers will manage quite easily. Can even see those three being renewed for less than 10 mill total in 2 yrs time. Please add Seguin in there if you want. We'll still have 50 million in cap space with the big 3 signed.

I don't know quicks... Hall is already at the ELC max which is $3M. If Ebs keeps up being, well, Ebs, he could command at least $4M.

Omark... no way.

PRV.... Maybe .. doubtful though. I'd bet $4M tops.

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#75 Wäx Män Riley
May 05 2011, 03:02PM
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Who knows what happens in 2 years though, for all we know PRV is gone and Seguin is in.*

*I don't actually think this, but just saying how things can change

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#76 jumptheshark
May 05 2011, 10:14PM
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I am not sold on RNH-there is something about him that bugs me--I would co for Larsson

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#77 Quicksilver ballet
May 06 2011, 10:56AM
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@Wäx Män Riley

If they do have some success the last two yrs of their agreements, it may go as high as 11 or 12 if things go really well for them. Taylor may be getting 3.75 with bonuses right now but i feel when that ELC expires he'll be closer to 4 as a base salary.

If Jordan can get to 60-65 pts by the end of his ELC he may settle in somewhere in that 2.5-3.5 per.

Paajarvi has the furthest distance to go, if he can turn it up a little with 45-50 pts in each of his two coming yrs i figure he'll be in that 2.5-3.0 range.

The way things sit right now these kids are on their own to lead this hockey club. Without further help these kids will have marginal success on their own. Move Hemsky+ along with the 19th and bring in another center (Hubes,Strome,Couturier) Take a shot at Glencross and Upshall and Ryan Smyth, make a deal to bring in a #1 or 2 for help on the blueline and these kids will have success. Perhaps then it would be closer to 15 to resign that trio then.

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