Nuge Tops All Charts!

It’s been a long time since a WHL kid topped the draft rankings across the board. With the release of Redline Report’s latest top 10, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joins some select company.

The last time a WHL player went #1 overall, Chris Phillips was heading to Ottawa (1996). The last time a forward from the dub–an offensive dynamo–went at the top of the draft Mike Modano (1988) was moving from the PA Raiders to the North Stars of Minnesota. The last time a Canadian born kid playing in the WHL was selected number one overall and had a career as a forward, Wendel Clark was plucked by the Maple Leafs (1985). Even that has an asterisk, Clark played defense with the Saskatoon Blades in junior. The last time a bona fide WHL trained Canadian forward was taken #1 overall, Doug Wickenheiser (1980) was being announced as the top pick (to an angry group of fans) for the Montreal Canadiens.

The kid is chasing history


As of the Redline release of their new top 10 (courtesy USA Today) Nugent-Hopkins is now number one on Bob McKenzie’s list (tsn), Redline’s list and the ISS list. Robin Brownlee’s recent articles that featured Stu MacGregor suggest the Oilers organization is also leaning this way.


NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald
“(Nugent-Hopkins) has very good puck-handling capabilities. His on-ice awareness is very good. He’s one of those guys that knows where everyone is and where they should be and where the puck should go . . . He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand with that kind of vision. But not just the vision, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade — that’s hard to find.”

NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan
“A couple of people high up — and not naming names — said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky). That’s the highest compliment you can get. But the other thing is the way he competes. He never takes a night off and he works as hard in his own end as he does in the offensive zone and that takes a special player with a special set of skills to do that.” has a great view on the kid here. My favorite quote comes from the kid himself: "Well, I’ve really been working on by defensive game this year. I mean, I’ve always been more of an offensive-minded guy, and kind of let the defense come second, but I know that it’s a very important part of the game and I’m really trying to work on it this year. Because I’m a center, so I’ve got to stay low, support for my (defensemen) and just trying to stay on the defensive side of my man all the time."

Draft him, send him back to junior where he can help the Rebels try to win the WHL championship and maybe the Memorial Cup. Add in a WJ appearance and a season devoted to adding strength. That’s the ticket and as of today it’s unanimous.

Nation Radio is back on today at noon (Team 1260). You can email questions (excellent questions and comments btw) to and we’ll read as many as we can. Guests:
  • Dustin Nielson from Team 1260’s morning show. He’s a draft nerd! We’ll ask him about which sources he values most and get his take on the top of the draft.
  • Matt Bugg from dobber hockey. Another draft service that is getting ready for their final list and we’ll talk to Matt about some of those hidden gems.
  • Kirk Luedeke from Bruins Draft Watch. Kirk has been hitting it out of the park recently, we’ll discuss a few items including goalies and the top 8 picks in this year’s group.
  • Matt Fenwick, an entertaining fellow and a legend for his work at Battle of Alberta.

We may also have a few surprises in store, hope you send your thoughts along and tune in at noon. Have a great long weekend!

  • Nugent-Hopkins is 1st on my list.

    After watching him play a bunch, I’m comfortable with his size being the only knock on him.

    In 10 years it would be ridiculous to have passed on an elite player because he was 15 lbs lighter than you’d prefer for an 18 year old.

    It’s easier to gain weight than getting better at any on ice deficiency. Rushing him to the NHL next year would be a mistake, and so would going forward with RNH and Sam Gagner as #1 and #2 Centers.

    • Oilfan14

      It’s not his size that’s the issue, the magnificent bastard has stated that it’s his strength which will come with time.

      I hope they send him back to junior so he can play at the world junior tournament in Edmonton. I have tickets!!!!!!!! Also it will allow the Oilers to spread out their ELC.

  • DonovanMD

    Much like LT, I was more of a Couterier guy for things like size, faceoffs and 2 way play (all offence being pretty equal of course…) but the way the Nuge has pulled away as the clear favorite combined with Couteriers drop has me figuring this many smart people can’t be wrong. I know these guys from youtube, if Stu says RNH is the best player available I am happy with that. Lets hope he is the next Sakic.

    • Lowetide

      At this point I think there’s just too much evidence. We’ll talk about this on Nation Radio today, but their collective NHLE’s are very close. Something in the “saw him good” category has tipped the scales.

      I honestly don’t know what it is, but the scouts seem to have identified it and agreed it’s elite. Probably something vague like “vision” lol.

  • DonovanMD

    Vision, or drive, or maybe like Hall he just has that extra gear or level of “intensity” that he displays on the puck. I dunno. Coutierier reminded me a lot of a poor mans Lecavalier. And the most often used comparison of RNH is Kane, stats wise a poor mans Kane.

    This is the most complicated draft in years, could be the sort that is still debated by Lowetide types ten years from now.

    My ideal Oiler draft would still be trade down to 3-6th and acquire a high 2nd and take any of Larsson, Couterier, Landeskog, Huberdeau, Hamilton.

    But we would always lament the one that got away if RNH became P. Kane. Damned if you do scenario for Stu I suppose.

  • paul wodehouse

    …i’m in complete agreement with you LT … draft RNH get him back to RedDeer and really groom him to be the player we need with all the tools …as in experience, exposure to championship runs and at least an opportunity to play and win a World Junior Championship. Start the ’12-’13 season @ 180pounds and start the new era of Oiler league domination.

    He can be a poor mans’ P.Kane but if he’s even mentioned in the same sentence as 99 then my ticket’s stamped to get on the bandwagon…

    …good things come to those who wait…

      • paul wodehouse

        common sense writes:”…We already have a poor man’s P.Kane aka Gagner Jr…”

        …well… i don’t believe for one minute that 89 is a poor mans’ Patrick Kane…for the most part i think a then just 18 year old Gagner suffered through a hopeless situation where he was brought in to play in this mans’league far too early and his very personality has been traumatized, no thanks to all his critics… as soon as he stopped potting goals for highlite reels that was it for them…. Soon after, even when he had 40 points each season alotta you smuckers turned on him and wanna run him out of town on a trade rail…What Patrick Kane was able to do was only because he has “it” like any bona fide number one pick should. AND he took to assaulting cabbies for change late at night.(kidding)
        Nugent-Hopkins should stay in junior one more year IMO…if only to prevent him from being treated so badly by the “candy now” crowd! I’m old but i don’t need to see a repeat of the Sam Gagner treatment in the name of a quicker rebuild …this team is in no rush (obviously when Kevin sez it’s gonna be 4-6years )to go all gaga over the new face in camp, throw him onto the fry pan and wait for him to “not handle” the pressure well enough for all our liking,that’s just crap and it can’t happen again… IMO the rebuild simply needs to happen for one more year without him (he was just 17 a month ago)…there are other players who will be brought up this year to be the tried and tested pieces this team needs in it’s future…Harski,Lander,Petry, maybe VV…AND our RNH jewel can do exactly as he needs to do as the future of this franchise …grow up! period

  • Draft him. This time there really is an undisputed #1, he’s the right call. I dont know about sending him back to juniour. If they want to do that then they better solidify the centre position this summer so they arent sending down someone that legitimately earned a spot.

    Im not ready to say that he has to be sent back to the Dub no matter what happens in camp. I still believe that players have to have the right to earn a spot, even if its unexpected.

  • ItsTheBGB

    Nothing better than waking up hungover and reading one of LT’s blogs. Well minus the hungover part.

    BTW, did anyone listen to “Ticket to Ride” when they looked at that chart? I did.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If ever there was a year to pool assets together for a second shot in that top 6 this is it. Damnit, why does this rebuild crap have to take so long.

    Let the dogs run now, we’ll still get seven draft choices everyear whether we need them or not.

  • fuzzy muppet

    I’m not so sure he will be sent back to Juniors. #1 OV doesn’t go back very often.

    At the least, he’ll get his nine games before they decide. Unless he gets completely overwhelmed in camp.

    • I don’t think he does either because I’m not sure the Oilers should be running again with Gagner, Cogliano, Horcoff and Fraser next year. I’m sure he could beat someone out for a spot (likely Cogliano). Getting another center is going to be quite difficult because the UFA centers are pretty dry meaning the only way to get another one is through trade and other teams aren’t going to give centers away.

      Whoever the Oilers draft at #1 should make the team, at least he’ll be good enough to do so, that is if the Oilers are actually looking to improve the team.

  • If they are worried about the strenghth issue with Hopkins , then i doubt the Oilers are going to wait 3-5 years to find out if he will turn out , when the other 4 already have the size , weight and physical strength to make their present felt on team as early as next season ! Not like the others are going to be useless to begin with, or bad picks for that matter . No way they draft Hopkins first overall if they have to wait to see if he will be strong enough in the future . If he’s not tough enough now , then he is to far away to take first overall when the others his equals are ready !

    • Ducey

      Funny . You all think Hopkins will be the best down the line over all the others . Thats 100% guaranteed by all you soothsayers ? You people are also better than all the scouts obviously . My points are no more invalid than many others are . I leave Hopkins as my 4th choice not only because of strength and size of bone structure , but mainly because the other 4 or so are just as far along their paths and the equal of him without the wait !

      • Madjam, all the scouts from the major sources are saying that its RNH #1. Redline, ISS, CSS, McKenzie’s scouts, and Stu MacGregor (through Robin Brownlee) pretty much said it too. They are not saying the top 3 or 4 are equal. They are all saying RNH is the best. ALL OF THEM.

        So when you say, “you people are also better than all the scouts obviously”, you are completely ignoring the fact that all us people are just repeating what all the scouts are saying.

        The only person that thinks they know better than all the scouts here is you.

        • Clyde Frog

          Interesting ? Since when did 60% of the scouts become 100 % . Not that you’d put your own biased interpretation in . It’s not out of the possibility that the 60% might also be 100% wrong , as they have occasionally other years . I like Hopkins , but i also like the others and what they have to offer , and i am not sold he will be better than any of the others down the road . Surprisingly all you are sold when not even 61% in reality are giving him the nod . Some of that nod can probably be attributed to the theory that Oilers are doing the Nugent thing . Bowmans opinion i respect and he’s not choosing Hopkins either – does that make Bowman and others with varying opinions wrong and stupid ?

          • Maybe I read the article wrong, but I don’t have time to read it again as the game just ended and i’m late for Nation Radio. Wasn’t the article reading that it’s no longer 60%, but now 100% of the scouts agree RNH is #1?

            You still think the Oil shouldn’t pick him?

            EDIT: Aww crap I missed the whole show. Guess I’ll listen when its posted here.

          • Wax Man Riley

            I think Redline, ISS, CSS, McKenzine, and even our own Magnificent Bastard are right 60% of the time… every time!

            When I look at that list of arrows pointing at #1, there is very little argument that I can have to say they are wrong.

            I wouldn’t not draft a player only because he is 168lbs at 17 years old.

            17 years old. I don’t know how old you are madjam, but my guess is you put on some weight between 17 and 23, and you weren’t in a world-class training regimen.

  • Ducey

    Whoever the Oilers draft at #1 should make the team, at least he’ll be good enough to do so, that is if the Oilers are actually looking to improve the team.

    ~Yeah, who cares about three to five years from now when these guys are starting to reach their prime. Make sure to get the guy who peaks at 18 so the team can finish 25th.~

    The Nuge apparently has the most upside while putting up as many points as anyone else. You take the guy who will be the best player for the next 20 years, not the guy who is most NHL ready for next year.

  • Clyde Frog

    But madjam can you please break down the top 5 with your detailed analysis?

    I am incredibly interested to see how a hockey guru like you can break down their games!

  • CanaDave

    I don’t know that anyone will be able to talk me off of team Larsson, since I think that he’s definitely the piece that helps the team the most right now, and in 5 years from now too, which is how I would run my draft. That said, I’m also on the record saying that I’m not going to be disappointed if the Oilers take RNH or Couturier even though to me that will signal that they don’t plan on even contending for a playoff spot for 2 more years.

  • I agree with madjam that there’s no need to overstate the case. And of course there are never any guarantees, even if scouts completely agree.

    But I would still have to play the percentages. All scouts seem to agree that they’re looking for who will be the best player in five years. And when we evaluate drafts, we wait five years to close the books. Right now most scouts believe that RNH will be that guy. Don’t we need a pretty good reason to go against the consensus? What would happen if we did so and it turned out wrong?

    Tambellini will make the safe pick. Safety being consensus.

  • I have no problem with Larsson either. I think he’s under-rated. It comes down to whether it is more important to have an elite centre or an elite Dman (ideally you would have both but we took an elite winger last year, BPA). And I don’t think that’s an easy question to answer. Assuming any of these kids become elite.

    I do believe though that it is more likely a team might luck out on getting an elite Dman later in the draft than an elite C. Keiths and Webers seem to happen more often than Getzlafs and Statsnys. In other words, because of their slow development D are tougher to project.

    I’d take the C and think about acquiring a top end D by dealing a F.

  • I haven’t heard that to be the conventional opinion.

    What I’ve been hearing about Larsson is that he is capable enough to play in the NHL next year, like Hedman.

    And if we are planning on drafting a top end defenceman (rather than acquiring thru other means), since they normally take longer to develop, drafting that top defenceman before that top centre would logically be the quicker way.

    • What I’ve been hearing about Larsson is that he is capable enough to play in the NHL next year, like Hedman.

      I’m not sure what this has to do with anything, even if it were true.

      Drafting Larsson would be a significant indicator that they plan to take their sweet time. I thought everyone knew this until right now.

      He is years away from being a key player, even if he makes the league right away. Guys don’t put up 9 points in Sweden and then come over as 19 year olds and dominate.

      Even if RNH goes back to Red Deer for another year he would be expected to become an impact player long before anyone would expect it of Larsson.

      Where did these people come from who suddenly think Larsson is going to be an immediate sensation?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    When the Oil take RNH and IF he makes the team out of camp they will definitly need a guy like SMAC to troll the ice even if he dosent posses the skills other than KOing a guy with 1 punch the kids need some form of protection Renney just has to play him more. Id rather see SMAC on the ice than a slug like Fraser

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    If your goal is to draft a defenseman with your top pick this year OR next year, because you have recognized this as a major weakness of the team, then you should draft Larsson this year and your centre next year.

    As noted by many, D-men typically take longer to develop, so starting the clock on that development now as opposed to next year is a benefit. The centre you draft next year will come along more quickly and with a little luck they both make an impact in 2-3 years.

    Otherwise, you have all these fowards ready to go and no one to get them the puck.

    The risk, of course, is when the Oilers come up to bat next season there is not a top centre on the board, but that risk also applies to d-men.

    Team Larsson all the way!

    • For quite a while I was concerned about this too. However, virtually all the reading I have done has led me to believe that we have an astronomically higher chance of acquiring our stud d-man via trade or free agency. To get our #1 C we MUST draft him. I am fairly confident that when it comes times to compete, whoever is at the Oiler helm will go out and grab whoever we need to shore up the back end. And besides, research has also shown that it is entirely possible that our stud d-man will be drafted late in the first round or even later. You grab the #1 C and run, and now that all the scouts seem to agree, I inadvertently release a small amount of excitement-pee when I watch highlight videos of RNH doing what he does.

      P.S. I don’t even want them to make a package to trade up for a second top 8 pick anymore. Now that all scouts agree RNH is the man, there’s no need to hedge our bets via Couturier. Keep the late first rounder and come out with a good d-man.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I get your thinking but this year is really Center heavy and next year is really heavy on D, I would take the number 1 pick on the number 1 player RNH and get our #1 Center. And next year take a D as their are lots of impact defenseman. Even if we improve and pick at like 10 we are still getting a solid D, remember Fowler fell to 12 last year.

  • Muji 狗

    Draft Nuge + play him in the NHL next year.

    Sure, we could be conservative, send him back to juniors, and have him dominate/improve for 1 more year…but screw it.

    Let’s play him with Hall and Eberle. He’s going to surprise, just like Hall and Eberle did this year. He’ll show that he belongs in the NHL now, or at least I hope so!

  • CanaDave

    The high-end of expectations that I would have for Larsson next season is to be in the Oilers 3rd D pairing next season, which I think is both fair and realistic. As opposed to RNH who, in the projections/predictions of most that I read around here would be heading back to junior for at least a season or two, which is why I think that for the Oilers to be better next season, Larsson is the better pick.

    I suppose it depends on who you picture being around on this team when it actually is competitive, and since I’m of the opinion that the Oilers have enough young potential superstar forwards in the system right now, they need to compliment them with a defenceman that they can get right now, instead of hoping enough of the forwards prospects turn out well enough to trade for the top level D man later.

    As I’ve also said before, I don’t really care which one of these top level guys the Oilers wind up drafting and I look forward to cheering that player on for years to come, Larsson is just who I see as being the best fit for them in both the short and long term.

    • There is no chance Nugent-Hopkins would play 2 more years of Junior, chances are he would be good enough to play next year but for his development it might be better for him to play junior and gain some strength and the year after I would almost say for certain he would be our best center. And we don’t have that many future superstar fowards and we have none at center and even if all them good ones panned out its better to have too many then too little, draft and develop forwards with high picks and trade for the D and/or draft them in later rounds.

  • bigrroberto

    I can’t see them taking the Eberle approach with RNH. IF the plan is to try him with Hall and Eberle then I think developing chemistry with those 2 as soon as possible is beneficial.

    My point being, if he earns a spot out of camp I think they need to run with it and put him in. At the very least for 9 games. Everyone knows that the pre-season is worlds different then the real season and I think he will get his 9 games.

  • Clyde Frog

    Take the best offensive kid, always…

    As Madjam ducks and hides from all the time, if that kid is a forward thats a big plus as well because they are almost impossible to trade for.

    On the Scotty Bowman’s thoughts, could it be his judgement is clouded by the simple fact the choice isn’t one he is actually making? For example he isn’t scouting the top 5 as hard as he might because, well there is 0 chance of him actually making a pick there?

  • CanaDave

    I’ll admit that my drafting of Larsson over RNH does depend a good deal on Gagner both getting a chance to play #1 minutes and succeeding at them next year, which, from all that I’ve read here certainly isn’t the most popular opinion. If the Oilers do draft RNH, I’m going to be perfectly happy with that and hope like heck he succeeds.

    My fear is that he either gets Brule’d, with way too many expectations on him as an 18-19 year old, gets injured or doesn’t produce right away and winds up 5 years into his career still trying to find his way to make an impact in the NHL, or that he gets Gagner’d and have the fans turn on him by year 3 if he’s not playing to the super high level that will be expected of him and have people wanting to trade him and our 10-12th overall pick to move up and draft 2015’s RNH who will “definitely” be the missing piece of the puzzle.

    That said, the fact that Larsson isn’t a knuckle-dragger and probably won’t deliver 3 big hits every shift he’s on the ice would probably lead to Oiler fans railroading him out of town even faster, while happily accepting a rebuild that will taken longer than it takes to buildbuild SuperRexall Centerplace (my nomination for the name of the new arena 😉 )

  • Finally, consensus… at least among the folks who get paid to do this.
    I’ve posed this question before – but had no takers, so here goes again. Can you make a case for going off the board or does sticking with the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ (ie: picking according to projected draft position) make for better odds… a few teams might be kicking themselves for passing over Fowler last year.
    Further to that when was the last time a consensus # 1 was skipped over? How did they turn out?

    • CanaDave

      I doubt that the consensus #1 was ever skipped over just because he is consensus number 1 for a reason, but like last year Seguin was rated #1 at the end on some scouting reports but the Oilers still went with Hall.

      And I am sure alot of teams will be kicking themselves over Fowler he was ranked #3 I believe, I think what happens is some teams that pick from 7 and on dont expect some guys so they dont prep for them and have their mind set on a guy thats going to be there around there pick and then its hard to not pick that guy (same goes for trading a player soon after drafting him) so I think thats what happened with Fowler, yet sometimes teams can’t believe the guy dropped and jumped all over him.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Madjam follies ? Here is a trade that has Oilers written all over it , and one that might make Larsson our first pick to boot . Oilers trade Smid to Chicago and take on Hjalmarssons contact that Hawks would like to dump . Maybe we’ll even find a way to give them Fraser back .

    Clarifying: Hall was my choice last season even though i would have been equally as pleased with going with Gudblanson . However tempting it was , and the many times i stated last season before the draft – you do not pass up a resume like Hall had going into the draft ! This season i don’t see a Hall type sensation and thus this is a good time to work on d-fence with our choices , seeing as Oilers don’t seem to care if they draft a player that is NHL ready or not ! At least with Larsson there is an excellent chance he could play for us next season , as well as Hjalmarsson .

    Mind you , we could go into next season with no new faces and pass that scenario onto fans and claim we are going to be competitive without adding anyone . Now that is a scenario i certainly hope they are not going to follow again this year , and all too familiar ,.