The First Overall Pick: Avoid Nugent-Hopkins



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.

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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.

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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.

Power-Play Scoring

Player Goals Assists Points
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 8 39 47
Sean Couturier 6 20 26
Gabriel Landeskog 7 4 11

Even-Strength/Shorthanded Scoring

Player Goals Assists Points
Sean Couturier 19 29 48
Gabriel Landeskog 18 17 35
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 11 21 32

*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.

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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.

  • Bigblue

    My vote is for Landeskog. He is everything the Oilers are missing up front. He has size, grit, leadership, and he can score. He is also used to the north American game already. I don’t think we are in desperate need of a center. We have pitlick, martindale, vande velde, and lander who are almost ready to make the jump. The oil also have hall and ebs who both played center in junior. Then you add horc, gags, cogs, omarra… How many do we need???

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Martindale is still a big question mark due to his footspeed and his work ethic. Vande Velde had a good training camp but his play in the AHL is apparently not so good. Pitlick and Lander are still at least a season or two away from making an impact as both should get some time in the AHL. As for the rest only Horcoff is a true center. Gagner is a good player but should not be the top center due to poor defensive coverage and bad Faceoff %. Cogs is even worse in the faceoff dot and his defensive play isn’t anything to brag about either.

      Also just because you play center in junior doesn’t mean you can play it in the NHL. Couturier is the prototypical center at 6’4 193lbs. He’s rangy and strong on the puck. At the World Juniors the one thing I noticed about the kid is that while he’s not as flashy as some of the other players he keeps the play alive, very good at the spade work, and makes smart plays with the puck. Also the Oilers could use a guy who plays all three zones, as they only have one guy who does that and Horcoff isn’t great in the offensive end.

      The Oilers look like they already have some grit in Curtis Hamilton and Tyler Pitlick. Having a guy run through people isn’t what breeds success. Just look at Toronto. Having depth at center and guys who can play in all areas does. Just think about this. Would you rather have guys like Eric Staal/Patrick Sharp/Jonathan Toews or David Backes/Milan Lucic/Scott Hartnell?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Took awhile to find this Frumpus Boodleschnit on google but eventually did find him. 6’6″ tall, 225lbs. Blinding speed, appears to harvest 70% of his points while shorthanded, we need someone better 5 on 5, best stick with Couturier boys.

  • Sorry, I’ve got to disagree with all the RNH haters out there. I’ve seen this kid play 5+ games (as both a 16yo and 17yo) and I’ll take what I’ve seen with my own eyes over some guy pouring over a stats sheet. Its not always about the stats, there are certain intangibles that come into play when selecting future talent, no? Granted, my viewing sample of Landeskog, Larsson, and Couturier is limited, but I have no hesitation in supporting the Oilers drafting RNH. Is he a guy that has the skill to play next year? Absolutely. Does he have the size necessary to play next year? No. That’s the only thing holding him back IMHO. And to make the suggestion that because he produces on the powerplay he shouldn’t be picked. How much time does Taylor Hall get on the PP? How many of his JR points came via the PP? Yes, I’m biased, but only because of the sample size of games I’ve seen RNH play in.

    • Aitch


      1) Willis isn’t complaining that the kid is producing on the power play. That would be cookoo! Especially as an Oilers fan. Perhaps he should’ve phrased it differently, but from what I’m seeing here RNH’s numbers are over-inflated due to either his or the Rebels supriority with the extra man.

      2) Given that you’ve seen 55+ games, this tells me that you’re probably a season ticket holder for Red Deer. That makes you a biased observer to some degree. You basically admit this yourself, which leads to…

      3) I don’t think anyone’s arguing if the kid has the talent to play in the NHL next season. The question is, is he the best player for the Oilers on a go-forward basis? Unless his family has a history of substantially filling out physically in their late teens, early 20s, I’d say no.


  • JW, have you crunched the numbers for past years to see if NHL production actually holds up to this hypothesis? I seem to remember this exact same argument being used to suggest that Seguin should be selected over Hall.

    I think that it makes sense that even strength production should be more important, but given the differences in team mates and systems, the relatively small numbers could be skewed. Certainly relying on one stat alone to make a decision between prospects seems hasty.

  • SierraRacs

    I have two words for powerplay specialists in juniors and their transition to the majors… Robert Schremp (but that is an entirely different can of worms).

  • Aitch


    Nope, not a season ticket holder. I’m a broadcaster, so I do have the ability to watch RNH play without “starry eyes” clouding my view. When I first arrived in RD, I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about. After watching him play just 2 games, I discovered why. The hockey intelligence is just something that you can’t teach and RNH has it.

    I agree maybe Willis couldve phrased it differently, but again, you can’t judge prospects solely on numbers and stats. RNH goes up against the oppositions best players night in and night out and excells. Powerplay, even strength, whatever. In fact, RNH could play on Edmontons PP right now and succeed!

    And I’ve met both his parents. His pops is a big guy. RNH will fill out

  • @sierraracs (and all the rest talking about PP production in Junior and the Bigs)

    I vehemently disagree with the “putting points up on the PP in junior does not make you a sure fire. NHLer” logic

    Yes, it does guarantee NHL success. But that rationale is only applicable to late first round- early 2nd round picks. Someone mentioned Robbie Schremp. Did he go first overall? A first overall pick will get PP time, so that argument doesn’t hold any water

  • VMR

    Thanks for bringing that forward, I didnt realize so many of his points were coming on the pp. I think he drops a few spots in my estimation then certainly. I’m still unsure of Couturier and would lean towards Larsson or possibly Landeskog with the comparisons to Mike Richards (who wouldnt kill for a guy like that on their team).

  • Clyde Frog

    Couturier or RNH one of those two are the only thing that will make me happy this draft…

    Drafting Larsson is way too much of crapshoot, too many top 5 Dmen turn into “decent” players… Not what you want out of a top 5 pick at all. Would you take Victor Headman over Duchene or Tavares? How about any of the big Dmen last year over Hall…? Didn’t think so, yet you can look through the archives for the same tired reasoning from people wanting us to take gubranson and fowler…

    Landeskog while a excellent player is a winger, who would you like to see on the third & fourth line? Hemsky, Eberly, Omark or Landeskog?

    Taking a player that has had success at the centre position throughout his career would fill an actual hole on this team as apposed to just upgrading a position, its not like Couturier or RNH aren’t having incredible success either…

  • Clyde Frog

    For the Oil to draft RNH, he had better be miles ahead of the other three mentioned. Edmonton simply cannot afford any more undersized players. If Edm ends up picking 4th, I still don’t want him.

  • Clyde Frog

    Hoovisonfire, the kid is over 6 feet tall he is just lean at 170 pounds right now. No danger of being a sub 6 foot tall smurf, just need to wait for his frame to fill out with a proper workout schedule.

    The plus here is he is competing well with a weight disadvantage. If he fills out well, he will be well set to compete with men seeing as he is used to not being the strongest kid on the ice.

    While players who are much bigger(at this stage) may develop bad habits when they are used to being 20 pounds heavier than the kids they are playing against.