August 12 2012 11:15AM
The Edmonton Oilers haven't had a player break the 80-point plateau since Doug Weight did it in 2000-01. The way I see it, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was eight years old when Weight accomplished the feat, will be the next – likely this coming season, the CBA willing.
It's been 11 seasons since Weight tallied 25-65-90 and the Oilers haven't had a player bump past the 80-point mark since then, although Jordan Eberle took a good run at it with 76 points last season and Ales Hemsky, who has breached the 70-point mark three times, had 77 in 2005-06.
While Eberle and Taylor Hall (if he can cut down on the number of headers he takes into the boards) are obviously candidates to join the 80-point club, I see Nugent-Hopkins, who had 18-34-52 in 62 games as a rookie in 2011-12, as the likeliest to achieve it first.
Nugent-Hopkins, 19, reminds me more than a little bit of Weight in terms of substance and style – he's smart, he's quick and shifty on his skates without possessing blazing top-end speed, he has excellent vision and anticipation and has a knack of putting the puck where his wingers can do something with it. And there's the number thing -- 39 and 93. If Weight is a distant memory for you, here's a video refresher
Those qualities aside, Nugent-Hopkins goes into 2012-13 with more firepower around him – Hall, Eberle, Hemsky and Nail Yakupov -- on the power play and as potential linemates than Weight ever enjoyed during his distinguished tenure wearing the oil drop.
In pegging Nugent-Hopkins for 80 points, I'm not talking about "Reasonable Expectations," as defined in the series Lowetide provides ON readers. That's a different measure – more of a bottom line. I'm talking about my expectations for the coming season – the top-end of what I believe Nugent-Hopkins is capable of as this point in his career.
I'm not using spreadsheets and a whole bunch (any) advanced statistical analysis here. The Bronte 5000, a Commodore 64 in the context of today's technology, is simply not capable of processing it.
In simple terms, if you project the 18-34-52 numbers Nugent-Hopkins produced in 62 games as a rookie -- .29 GPG, .55 APG and .84 PPG – straight across over 82 games, you get 24-45-69. Hey, Brownlee, that's not 80 . . .
Of course, it's not as simple as that and this is where my head begins to hurt – what about ice time, power play time, linemates, quality of competition, zone starts and all that other stuff (that goes into making an educated guess)? Insert sound of my brain flipping inside my skull here.
MY BOTTOM LINE
. . . While Nugent-Hopkins won't get as many protected minutes as he did from Tom Renney last season, he will certainly play more than the 17:36 he averaged last season as the clear-cut No.1 center right out of the gate under Ralph Krueger.
. . . I don't see anything unsustainable in the 13.4 shooting percentage had last season. It's not so high (Eberle was at 18.9) a marked drop-off seems likely and not so low that I see huge room for improvement.
. . . I think the Oilers will score more goals than the 212 (including shootout wins) they had last season. How many more? If a much-improved power play can stay in the top-10, I don't think 235-240 is unreasonable. RNH will be in on a greater share of those than he was last season.
Numbers aside, I like the way Nugent-Hopkins thinks the game and, like Eberle (and Weight), he has an understated competitive streak that drives him to prove doubters and critics wrong – the SIUTBOHC factor. Remember that fluke fall into the boards that cost him the Calder Trophy? Fuel.
On top of the ability to process the game and the I'll-show-you streak, Nugent-Hopkins is smart. I'm not concerned he won't be able to sneak up on anybody as a sophomore or that his name will be circled on white boards around the league. Yes, opponents have had a season to compile a book on Nugent-Hopkins. The flipside is he's had a year to size them up, as well.
Move over, Douglas. RNH is on the way. I'd bet sooner than later.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.