Beginnings

Lowetide
August 07 2011 08:18AM

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made good and sent the crowd home happy.

Watching Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last night, I came away with a somewhat different view of him as a hockey player. Early on, the passes to and from linemates didn't connect well but he still found a way to be a useful player. I'd noticed in previous viewings that he had very good puck pursuit on the backcheck, but last night he (and linemate Jaden Schwarz) were demons on the forecheck. That line had the added advantage of human cannonball Devante Smith-Pelly, but the trio was limited offensively save for a couple of impressive rushes from the ANA draft pick (Smith-Pelly).

RNH made up for it by winning faceoffs, playing effectively on the PK (I didn't see him get any PP time) and the ability to play through what was a pretty filthy bunch of stick work and physical intimidation for an exhibition game. Team White played against some tall trees on team Red (notably Gudbranson, Gormley and Oleksiak) and some of the smaller forwards found the going rough (I didn't see anyone shy away, though. Some gumption on both sides of the puck).

The two goals RNH scored were the kinds of counters that only very skilled players score. The first was a ridiculous backhand from the scoring zone (slot, just above the blue ice) in which the player threw the puck blindside to an area and found twine (this is exactly the type of thing he-who-cannot-be-named did many times in the same building).

The second goal was more impressive because it showed quickness and a very good shot. RNH--as he often does--stayed on the play and when the first attempt was foiled found a seam (again similar to the type of thing he-who-cannot-be-named did many times in the same building) and ripped a quick shot behind the goalie.

WHERE YOU THERE?

I mentioned yesterday that going to the game would give you a chance to start the "trunks of memories" for the RNH era. Of course, he's going to share this "era" with Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and others; last night I got the feeling that it's going to be hard to send this young man back down Highway 2.

Why?

Because all of us want to take charge of a game late when things are on the line. Few of us are gifted enough to follow through and make it happen. That kind of player is very special.

Who does he remind you of?

First, remember that I'm old. Second, I was very impressed with his play away from the puck last night. He wasn't getting a lot done with the puck but his pursuit on the forecheck, his PK plays, the faceoffs and his overall positioning were top drawer. The kid is exceptional, and I can see why the Pavel Datsyuk comparisons have been made.

Last night--when he scored those two goals--he reminded me of Steve Shutt. The reason? Shutt had a midas touch around the net and had the same kind of quick release we saw on the second goal. Shutt was also an exceptional as a two-way winger. Anyway, our minds fall back to our strongest memories and I'm certain Datsyuk is a more reliable (and more recent) comp. But Steve Shutt is the memory that came rolling in, so thought I'd mention it.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#51 Devon
August 07 2011, 09:20PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Why should we all view it as okay if RNH fails to do what every forward taken 1st overall has done since 89? Why is it acceptable for him to fail to meet such an established standard?

There are big players everywhere. If RNH cant play against big players then we made the wrong choice. Players like him are good bcause they dont get hit. Thats his billing.

Until he proves to be the worst 1st overall forward since the fall of the Soviet Union we should consider that he probably SHOULD play in the NHL based on the historical data.

Well I wouldn't consider it a failure for him not to make it. Now I know where your coming from Arch but, hey the last guy to not make the team that was taken first overall was a guy by the name of Madano. I think he had a damn good career wouldn't you agree? So while it's not ideal for him to not make the team I don't think it's the end of the world for RNH either.

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#52 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
August 07 2011, 09:42PM
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@Devon

The last forward was Modano, Chris Phillips I believe was the last #1 pick not to start the season with his team.

Edit: Make that Erik Johnson.

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#53 Archaeologuy
August 07 2011, 09:45PM
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@Devon

Sure, I just see it as silly that there's this sentiment that he should go back to juniour even though there is no reason to send him back save for his weight, and he wouldnt even be the skinniest kid to play in the NHL as an 18 yr old in the last 5 years.

Every time I see it mentioned I roll my eyes. The established standard for 1st overall picks is to play in the NHL. Failure to meet that is not a good thing, and yet there are plenty of Oiler fans hoping this guy goes back to play with the kiddies.

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#55 Oilcruzer
August 07 2011, 10:12PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Certainly. What if some forward thinking team went crazy and made a SEL team their affiliate? Could they then send their best young prospects to a Pro league without breaking CHL agreements?

I would love to see someone give it a shot. There are probably all kinds of reasons why its impossible, but I would love to see it.

*bump*

I love the idea. Don't European teams have an import limit? Might be hard to convince them to use that slot on a part timer.

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#56 VK63
August 08 2011, 12:36AM
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Babcock was impressed with RNH...... thats pretty good.

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#57 Eulers
August 08 2011, 01:50AM
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Thanks, LT, for making me feel like I was there (and knew a heck of a lot more about hockey!). On behalf of all the out-of-towners who can't catch the Edmonton games (I've never been to Rexall!), thanks!

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#58 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
August 08 2011, 05:21AM
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@Max Powers - Team HME Evans

Right right. I remember reading that somewhere now, I believe it was an article by you or linked by you. Or in Joyce's book.

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#59 michael
August 08 2011, 10:04AM
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Steve Shutt. Grew up watching those 70s Canadians. RNH has the "knack" factor. He has a knack for scoring at the righjt time. For getting the puck. For being in the right place. He makes his own puck luck. Hard work is the key to success but add to it the on ice intelligence that RNH has he then becomes one of those special players. Its hard not over hype this kid. He just seems to be at the center of things when they happen.If RNH is half as good as we think he'll be....

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#60 positivebrontefan
August 08 2011, 04:53PM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

You can't see them because they are psychological. Did anyone who watched last night's game think RNH was head and shoulders above other players? Just sayin, he didn't dominate against the best amateur players in Canada and so it isn't out of the question for one more year in the 'Dub, a year to dominate and develop confidence and a sense of winning. I just hope the Oilers err on the side of caution.

I would love to see this years Juniors play against last years Oilers team.

Where would you put the line?

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