THE RIGHT STUFF: R N-H ONE COOL CUSTOMER

Robin Brownlee
September 28 2011 10:28PM

Spend a few minutes talking to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins outside the bustle of the daily scrums that have become his routine, and it's difficult not to come away as impressed with him off the ice as on it.

Given how good Nugent-Hopkins has been at his first training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, and how it looks like he's on his way to a claiming a season-opening roster spot well before he shaves for the first time in his life, that's saying a mouthful.

While fans are giddy at what they've seen from Nugent-Hopkins this pre-season, the baby-faced 18-year-old pivot from the Red Deer Rebels is a picture of composure and understatement.

Short on bravado and long on aw-shucks is Nugent-Hopkins, who awoke Wednesday morning to rave reviews after scoring a goal and adding two assists on a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, giving him 1-5-6 in four pre-season games.

Not prone to an inflated cranium, this kid.

KIDS IN THE HALL

Just a couple of examples of what was out there this morning when Nugent-Hopkins and the Oilers filed into Rexall Place for a noon-hour skate. Over at the broadsheet, The Journal's John Mackinnon wrote:

"They will score, these young Edmonton Oilers. That’s obvious. Not only that, the gifted likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will swash, they will buckle, they’ll sizzle, they’ll dance, they’ll drive the net, they’ll lift the Rexall Place faithful out of their seats early and often this season."

Equally impressed was Terry Jones at The Sun, who chimed in with:

"It was a line which looked, only moments after it came together, like it could live happily ever after. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made magic with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle as coach Tom Renney decided to go forward to the future and the kid basically served notice he’s not going to be easy to ship back to his past.

"Forget about it Red Deer? Play on Rebels? You’ve seen the last of the No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft? How do you send the kid back to junior after that performance?"

How, indeed.

TAKING IT ALL IN

If Nugent-Hopkins is a pumped as he has to be at the prospect of cracking an NHL line-up, he's doing a masterful job of hiding it publicly. No swagger. None. Not a trace of Rob Schremp in him.

"I came in here and I just wanted to play my game and try to earn a spot on this team," Nugent-Hopkins told me matter-of-factly. "I feel like I've definitely played my game as well as I could right now.

"I'm happy with the way things have gone. This week will be the last chance before the regular season to kind of prove myself a little bit more. I'm just going to do everything I can. Just play my game."

Nugent-Hopkins just smiled when asked about what's been written and said about him.

"The coaches told me that the only thing I have to do is play my game and they're going to give me a good opportunity here," he said. "I feel like I've done that. I just want to keep it going and make it a tough decision on the coaches."

LEVEL-HEADED

Surely Nugent-Hopkins must allow himself a fist-pump here or there behind closed doors, given how well he's performed with the eyes of an entire organization on him, no? You can tell me, kid . . .

"Obviously, I'm extremely excited about the opportunity I have, but I'm trying to just take it day by day," Nugent-Hopkins said as he peeled off his gear in a near-empty dressing room.

"If I get too high or too low, then things can go bad, so I'm just trying to keep level-headed here and have fun with it."

Nugent-Hopkins is at a stage where he'd rather have fun with it than talk about having fun with it, which is to be expected for a kid yet to play his first regular season NHL game. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around, after all.

The right stuff. The right words.

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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#1 Stir the Pot
September 29 2011, 09:04AM
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Cogs will have more points the guy has Teemu "Frickin" Selanne on the same line as him! Hell most of his points may be second assists but they are still points!

So after hearing the Gregor show yesterday about a name for the Hall Eberley, RNH line I thought up "NKOTB" New Kids on the Bus! Zing!!

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#2 Archaeologuy
September 29 2011, 09:18AM
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@Talbot17

If Kane and Ennis can play their rookie seasons weighing less than 160 lbs then I dont see what the obsession with RNH's weight is all about.

The guy is the 1st overall pick. Thinking he will be returned to Jr is literally betting against all the odds.

1) Best Player of his age group. Check

2) Drafted to the worst team in the league. Check

3) Team has openings at his position. Check

4) Hasnt shown any sign of being overwhelmed. Check

5) Makes his NHL squad. Pending

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#4 pelhem grenville
September 29 2011, 04:20AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Who'll have more points this season, Gagner or Cogliano?

RNH is a young gem of a player with a very exciting future...but why, as the grizzled intrepid scribe that you are, would you button hole this phenom away from the madding crowd of wordsmiths for a good one on one, put it here to admire and form a meaningful debate BUT out of the blue, from nowhere you offer up this cannibalistic question about a now injured and likely to start the season on the IR Gagner and a former fat-lipped smurf that got shipped outta here because he wasn't good enough to win a face off EVER ...

I don't care about Cogliano and for that matter i don't care for another unending drool same old same old 200+ comment Gagner discussion...

y'sure went off your own topic here Robin...js

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#5 pelhem grenville
September 29 2011, 06:41AM
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a lg dubl dubl wrote:

Somebody sounds a wittle grumpy...Here pelhem have some of the ON kool aid it tastes great this time of year.

Now shhh and go back to bed.

...not even a "wittle grumpy" this a.m. large...y'might think i sit at my computer in my parents basement slopping up my cereal or jonesin' for the ON koolaid but in fact i've been at work for an hour and a half now and i'm happy to be a part of this graet Nation where old farts like me can call out our favorite writers on stuff like the above ... what...you wanna spend the better part of the day in the mindless Gagner vs ANYONE debate?

...include me out

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#6 a lg dubl dubl
September 29 2011, 07:10AM
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pelhem grenville wrote:

...not even a "wittle grumpy" this a.m. large...y'might think i sit at my computer in my parents basement slopping up my cereal or jonesin' for the ON koolaid but in fact i've been at work for an hour and a half now and i'm happy to be a part of this graet Nation where old farts like me can call out our favorite writers on stuff like the above ... what...you wanna spend the better part of the day in the mindless Gagner vs ANYONE debate?

...include me out

I was just poking the bear pelhem, the Gagner debate is a little stale imo too.

GAGNER RULES!

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#7 Archaeologuy
September 29 2011, 08:32AM
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justDOit wrote:

FWIW, Treenasoil is suggesting that the Oilers are close to trading a defenseman. We can only hope that she means we're getting one back as well.

In other news, my Horoscope told me to be more open about my feelings because I would have relationship problems today.*

*Just as likely to be true as Treenasoil

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#8 Ales Hallsky
September 29 2011, 08:56AM
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SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!

*faints*

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#9 BArmstrong
September 28 2011, 10:56PM
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Gagner (no surprise), but Cogliano should have a good year with the fresh start.

I'm a fan of both players, and would enjoy seeing either/both find the next gear.

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#10 Fee Logolin
September 28 2011, 10:57PM
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All this scoring potential is fine, really excited about it BUT then I glance at the D ... Solemn head shaking ensues .... Robin what are the chances someone is heading out of town sooner rather than later to make room for RNH and to address the elephant that seems to be ignored in all the giddiness?

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#11 Butters
September 29 2011, 12:57AM
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Miscounted centres. Gagner can centre the Swedes. Still pick Cogs though.

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#12 Archaeologuy
September 29 2011, 06:31AM
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I love how shocking it is to some people that the 1st overall pick just might be good enough to play in the NHL right away. Quelle surprise!

Too funny.

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#13 pelhem grenville
September 29 2011, 07:28AM
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a lg dubl dubl wrote:

I was just poking the bear pelhem, the Gagner debate is a little stale imo too.

GAGNER RULES!

...y'want poking the bear? imagine how i'm doing waiting for the Brownlee to 'reply'

that's the sound of my a$$ puckering while i wait

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#14 justDOit
September 29 2011, 08:21AM
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@Stack Pad Save

FWIW, Treenasoil is suggesting that the Oilers are close to trading a defenseman. We can only hope that she means we're getting one back as well.

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#15 Robin Brownlee
September 30 2011, 07:38AM
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@Archaeologuy

Just throwing out a term like "asset management" makes some people feel smarter, even if they don't have the slightest clue when it comes to applying it effectively.

And, as you point out, there are other factors at play, like the reaction of the "asset" to having the opportunity to earn a lot of money delayed, even if they've earned the right.

If RNH's entry level contract kicks in this year, he'll need a new deal for 2014-15. The Oilers will be rid of Gilbert and Khabibulin's contracts by then, to name just two, and will have one year of Horcoff left (at $3 million).

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#16 DSF
September 30 2011, 09:02AM
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dougtheslug wrote:

Not exactly sure how "playing with actual NHL players" wins faceoffs, and I'd wait until the regular season before jumping on that bandwagon if I were you. My bet is is more of the same in Anaheim - point every 2-3 games, 40% or worse on the dot. Good riddance! We have better things to talk about now.

Playing with actual NHL wingers who can win a puck battle can go a long way to improving a centre's face off percentage.

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#17 back to the future
September 28 2011, 10:33PM
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definitely seems like the real deal, both on and off the ice. great to see.

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#18 oilbaron
September 28 2011, 10:36PM
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now all we have to do is find a player that gel's with sam gagner........

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#19 BArmstrong
September 28 2011, 10:47PM
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oilbaron wrote:

now all we have to do is find a player that gel's with sam gagner........

How 'bout that Cogliano kid?

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#21 shaner
September 28 2011, 10:56PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Who'll have more points this season, Gagner or Cogliano?

Gags, however I hope for Cogs sake he has a bounce back year.

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#22 book¡e
September 28 2011, 11:02PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Who'll have more points this season, Gagner or Cogliano?

Well, I think that is pretty obvious.

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#23 bazmagoo
September 28 2011, 11:35PM
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I wouldn't be surprised to see Cogliano have a great year, but out pointing Gagner could be a stretch.

Even though Cogliano always had a good attitude and said the right things, 3 years of trade rumors and being bashed constantly in the media/call in shows has to take a toll on someone!

I could easily see Cogs getting 50 points considering his potential line mates and the fresh start.

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#24 Mason Storm
September 28 2011, 11:47PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Who'll have more points this season, Gagner or Cogliano?

Do AHL points count? I don't see him fitting in Anaheim and they may bury him.

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#25 Butters
September 29 2011, 12:45AM
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I'll say Cogs outscores Gagner. If RNH makes the team, where does Gagner fit? And when Horcoff goes down, Lander is the more suitable replacement for what Horcoff brings. I hope Gagner can adjust to playing a wing.

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#26 a lg dubl dubl
September 29 2011, 05:33AM
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pelhem grenville wrote:

RNH is a young gem of a player with a very exciting future...but why, as the grizzled intrepid scribe that you are, would you button hole this phenom away from the madding crowd of wordsmiths for a good one on one, put it here to admire and form a meaningful debate BUT out of the blue, from nowhere you offer up this cannibalistic question about a now injured and likely to start the season on the IR Gagner and a former fat-lipped smurf that got shipped outta here because he wasn't good enough to win a face off EVER ...

I don't care about Cogliano and for that matter i don't care for another unending drool same old same old 200+ comment Gagner discussion...

y'sure went off your own topic here Robin...js

Somebody sounds a wittle grumpy...Here pelhem have some of the ON kool aid it tastes great this time of year.

Now shhh and go back to bed.

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#27 Stack Pad Save
September 29 2011, 06:50AM
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Who cares who gets more points between Gags and Cogs. What I am more curious about at the start of the season is what Oilers are most likely on the trading block this year to get a legitimate defenceman. No longer can we get trade's cancelled for the likes of Dany Heatly with Cogliano and Penner as the trade bait. So who are the most likely Oilers to be on the trading block to start the year?

My guess is the Oilers try to package one of either Gagner/Hemsky, draftpick, and a defenceman of either Smid/Petry/Chorney for a legit top 4 defenceman.

By the way I couldn't use any of those guys to get a top 2 defenceman in NHL 12

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#28 Taylor.E.Hopkins
September 29 2011, 07:11AM
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Now that we can see that the kid can play, what happened to all the issues about his weight? Do you still think he can play 82 games or does he need more conditioning?

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#29 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
September 29 2011, 07:13AM
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Mason Storm wrote:

Do AHL points count? I don't see him fitting in Anaheim and they may bury him.

Remember kids, drugs are bad.

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#30 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
September 29 2011, 07:22AM
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I see Pelhem's point here. But he does sound kinda grumpy....Just sayin!

I would honestly love to be able to go back to the Ottawa papers the year that Daigle was drafted and get a feel for his attitude throughout pre-season, during TC, after getting drafted, during the summer etc.

What was wrong with Daigle? It was his commitment to the game right, or did he have a bit of an attitude? There's no way Nuge is going to end up like the D word... right?

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#31 hemi
September 29 2011, 07:43AM
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With many a person with better hockey sence than I possess, the vast majority of their input definitely leads me to believe that RNH will not just stay with the big club but flourish despite his size and his age. I was a fence sitter regarding him right from the get go. However, from what I have witnessed, read and heard, he seems to be the real deal alright.

Any way you want to slice it, the kid has no where to go but upward. We should consider ourselves very fortunate to have such young talent wearing the colours. We are in for a decent and entertaining year. In reality, who could ask for more whilst in the rebuilding process?

I find it particularly funny when I visit other sites to read how others view how non Oiler fans (especially the laff fans)find very little positive to say about how Edmonton is regarding the talent and the actual rebuilding. There is not one other team in the league that wouldn't give up their collective right nuts to have RNH. The Oil are in good shape and we the fans will be the benefactor of such. How is that for dipping into the ON koolaid!

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#32 Milli
September 29 2011, 08:07AM
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It is pretty exciting to think about! This kid looks good! I was raving about Eberle and how he is just dynamite, all he does is everything well, the Hall and Nuge throw out that kinda performance, WOW!!! Who knows how the season will go, but I am gonna enjoy watching these kids!!!

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#33 justDOit
September 29 2011, 08:09AM
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Nugkins will get a good feel for real NHL games soon. Starting on Oct 15, the Oilers play 5 games in 8 nights: Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary, Minnesota and NYR.

Considering that the NYR game could be his 7th of the season, I'm sure we'll have a better basis for any flowery projections at that time.

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#34 Mike O
September 29 2011, 08:16AM
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Fee Logolin wrote:

All this scoring potential is fine, really excited about it BUT then I glance at the D ... Solemn head shaking ensues .... Robin what are the chances someone is heading out of town sooner rather than later to make room for RNH and to address the elephant that seems to be ignored in all the giddiness?

Just so. If RNH makes the team, it seems obvious that at least one talented young forward has to be moved for defensive help.

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#35 Talbot17
September 29 2011, 08:32AM
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Ok so the RNH weight issues were ridiculous, and they have diminished due to his performance. Its just funny how the media bashes the kid for his 'weight' yet he isnt that small and he's slippery on the ice. I think if Tyler Ennis can play a straight season in Buf. i am pretty sure RNH can handle playing it too, and be better in the process.

And tamb is not going to trade for a D before the season starts. His style is built on a "well lets wait and see" process

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#37 Archaeologuy
September 29 2011, 09:00AM
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@Robin Brownlee

I think "bashing" was probably the wrong word, but there have been some media people with seemingly unwavering opinions about RNH and returning him to Jr.

Ryan Rishaug comes to mind in the "RNH to the WHL" group. Or at least he was until pre-season had really gotten underway. Admittedly, I havent been able to hear him on Gregor's show of late, so he may have changed his tune. However, for quite a while he was talking about how it's not a failure if RNH goes back to Red Deer (which it is for a 1st pick) and how unimpressed he was watching RNH at the Canadian camp. It didnt matter what was argued, he seemed to have his mind made up already that RNH was destined for the WHL.

He obviously has his opinion and is paid to deliver it (no matter how twisted it is), but MAYBE it was that kind of media scrutiny that had Talbot in a twist.

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#38 Talbot17
September 29 2011, 09:08AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Not necessarily bashing, but leading up to the draft is one thing I am more so focused on the current state of RNH where he has put on some weight and looks good. I am just stating that its ridiculous weight itself can be such a determinant in a player with that kind of skill making a team. Frankly, I think RNH at his age looks better and more able to take on the NHL than Gagner did when he entered the league. And I don't recall their being that much skepticism for him when he entered the league as RNH is facing now.

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#39 Talbot17
September 29 2011, 09:12AM
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@Robin Brownlee

double post

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#40 Talbot17
September 29 2011, 09:12AM
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@Archaeologuy

Thats more of what I was getting at, bashing was not the best word for sure. But rishaug is a good example. I think in listening to the team1260 all the time day and night and until the Phoenix game the weight issue was continuously being put back on the table, just think that with his skill set i never really saw weight being such a diverse factor in him making the team or not. I have followed RNH for a couple years and he is just that kind of evasive player, I don't think i have ever seen him take a big hit actually

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#41 freeze
September 29 2011, 09:27AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Who'll have more points this season, Gagner or Cogliano?

oooh, interesting. If Cogs can manage some playing time with Teemu then he will have a great season. I hope its Gags tho!

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#43 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
September 29 2011, 09:37AM
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"Great" to read!(Every thing about RNH) (We do not use that first word lightly around here!) But one line just spoiled it for me "Not a trace of Rob Schremp in him." It was kind of the opposite of putting lipstick on a pig. Don't know how to describe it, but it just lowered the enjoyment of the "read" for me.

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#44 Talbot17
September 29 2011, 09:41AM
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@Archaeologuy

100% agree. Kane and Ennis are good comparisons here.

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#45 a lg dubl dubl
September 29 2011, 09:42AM
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I think if RNH doesn't make the team(he should) it'll be based on his contract and when it expires, almost like what Pittsburgh did with M.A Fleury when he first came in but without the $ issues that the Pens were facing.

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#46 gongshow
September 29 2011, 09:44AM
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Stir the Pot wrote:

Cogs will have more points the guy has Teemu "Frickin" Selanne on the same line as him! Hell most of his points may be second assists but they are still points!

So after hearing the Gregor show yesterday about a name for the Hall Eberley, RNH line I thought up "NKOTB" New Kids on the Bus! Zing!!

Actually, I think that Saku will have Teemu on his wing. Cogs should slot in as 3rd line center, which probably means that he's got Big Bad George Parros on his right side. Can't see too many big point nights for AC this year.

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#47 vetinari
September 29 2011, 09:47AM
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The kid line looks like a natural fit and this season will be all about winning games on the transition game and the power play until the defence and goaltending can consistently elevate their games.

I think Tambi will evaluate this lineup as the season goes on and if they are floating around a possible playoff berth by the deadline, then they'll look at adding some proven help on the backend. Otherwise, they'll stay the course and wait for the next generation of recruits to mature on defence (i.e. Klefbom and Musil).

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#48 Quicksliver Bullet
September 29 2011, 09:58AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You see this based on what, exactly? Certainly not the contract they signed him to. The Ducks see him as a guy they're willing to play over $7 million to over the next three seasons. If it's all the same, I'll put a bit more weight in their vision than yours.

Robin . . . you're a little cranky this morning . . . wassup brother?

Hi SSM and Gruppenfuhrer!

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#49 OILERSORDEATH
September 29 2011, 09:59AM
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The scary part is, Nuge, Hallsy, Ebs, MPS, Lander, Omark, A healthy Hemsky are only going to get stronger and faster! Wow shudder to think. Thats top notch right there.

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#50 michael
September 29 2011, 10:11AM
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The fun begins for real in a week or so.The fun will include having Hopkins on a line with Eberle and Hall. Let the horses have thier rien. Let them run wild. Let them make mistakes. Let them learn. as a line. As individuals. As teammates. If this rebuild is going to be successful we'll need to let the kids play.Smyth,Horcoff and Hemsky are like 3 peas in a pod. You'd think that with Smyth determined to prove himself and Hemsky and Horcoff healthy that that combination should produce at a healthy clip.H2E will get thier points. Omark and MP will bring up the rear and clean up the points that the other 2 lines have left behind. The third line is where I think where we are going to see alot of action this year. Teams will need to focus on the Oilers first lines and the matchup s against Omark and MP are going to favor them. If,big if. If Bulin and DD give us solid goaltending I think that thier could be atleat a 10 win improvement this season. The achilles heel is our defence. I just am not certain on where we stand there. It may be the Oilers score 3 goals a game and won't need to rely on thier D and goalies so much. But I am not holding my breath. RNH is going to be fun watching. Between The Oilers and The Jets its going to be real fun watching hockey this year. I got my NHL Network and I look forward to the season ahead.

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