As it stands today, at least four players have a legitimate shot at going first overall: defenceman Adam Larsson of the Swedish Elite League, and forwards Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog.
After looking through the numbers, I’m convinced that Nugent-Hopkins would be the wrong selection.
Over in Lowetide’s gameday thread, commenter PunjabiOil made mention of an interesting point with regard to Nugent-Hopkins:
[Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] concerns me. 47 of his 69 points (someone on HF did a breakdown) have come on the powerplay. [Sean Couturier] appears to be a vastly superior prospect, IMO.
Naturally, that caught my attention. From what I’ve seen, junior players that put up a massive percentage of their points on the power play tend not to carry that production with them into the NHL. Generally, young forwards simply don’t get the same amount of minutes on the power play in the big leagues that they get in junior, and thus it’s essential that they also have production at even-strength.
In light of that, I decided to break down the offensive production of the three forwards in major junior by game state. This required going through the game sheets on the OHL, WHL and QMJHL websites, so it’s possible I made an error adding somewhere – the QMJHL website in particular is not especially user-friendly – but these numbers should be either bang on or very close to it.
*Note: Couturier’s numbers include six points while short-handed: two goals and four assists. He’s the only one of these three players to be adding offence while short-handed.
The dichotomy between Nugent-Hopkins’ results in these two tables is incredible. On the one hand, he contributes more offence on the power-play than Couturier and Landeskog combined. Clearly, the diminutive forward is an ace with the man advantage.
However, at even-strength Nugent-Hopkins is actually the least effective of the three players, particularly when we take into account games played: Couturier’s played 44, Landeskog 33 and Nugent-Hopkins 52. In other words, while both of the other forwards are slightly above the point-per-game mark in even-strength offence, Nugent-Hopkins is well below it.
I’m actually surprised at how well Gabriel Landeskog holds up by this measure – he’s pretty much on par with Sean Couturier’s even-strength results, and although he doesn’t compare on the power play that might indicate he’s a better scorer than his reputation would suggest.
This is hardly a comprehensive evaluation of the three players, but based on the results I have no hesitation in saying that I’d rank Nugent-Hopkins well back of both Couturier and Landeskog.