THE OILERS WILL TAKE NUGENT-HOPKINS…ERR… THEY BETTER

If you don’t see this picture in three weeks then I’d be very surprised, and you should be disappointed. I’ve said since March the Oilers should draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and after speaking with many scouts the past month on my show and via text, there is no doubt in my mind he is they guy they should, and will, call on June 24th.

I don’t want to rehash why I think they should use their first pick on a centre over a D-man, but if you want to know read here, meanwhile I want to focus on why they must take Nugent-Hopkins. It is becoming clearer by the day that he is the most talented player in the draft. His ability to see plays that others can’t is what separates him from the rest of this year’s draft class.

If you are worried about his alleged lack of size chew on this for a second. Oil Kings forward Micheal St. Croix finished the WHL season at 175 pounds, on Wednesday he weighed 185 at the combine. Nugent-Hopkins finished his campaign at 168 and earlier this week he was already at 177.

Oilers head amateur scout, Stu MacGregor explained to me why this is not a surprise.

"It is not unusual for the young guys to gain weight quickly after the season, because they take a little rest, get home to mom and eating home cooked meals more regularly. They do really focus on eating better and they start to look at developing physically and getting into their fitness programs."

How many of you put on some pounds when you went from being single to dating a girl who was a good cook? Of course you probably gorged yourself and didn’t work out feverishly like these draft-eligible kids, so it isn’t hard to see why Nugent-Hopkins will likely end up being a 190 pound NHLer in his second season.

WHAT ABOUT HUBERDEAU? 

Jonathon Huberdeau had a great playoffs, 16-14-30 in 19 games, including tallying 3-3-6 in four Memorial Cup games while leading his Saint John Sea Dogs to the championship. Some are wondering if his playoffs have put him in the same category as Nugent-Hopkins. It is a good question, but I don’t think he is there yet.

In my conversation with MacGregor I asked him to compare the similarities and differences between the two.

"The similarities are certainly their hockey sense, skills and vision of the ice. The difference is that Ryan has that quickness and slipperiness that defenseman seem to fear. Jonathon is starting to develop that same aspect but he isn’t as smooth at it just yet."

MacGregor didn’t want to tip his hand on who he was leaning towards, but he did say with certainty that he knows who he would take first today and will reiterate that to Steve Tambellini in the coming weeks. He did however give me a slight glimpse as to where they were leaning when I asked him if it was likely that they would use their first two picks on different positional players. 

You might think I was reading between the lines too much on that, but I’d suggest of MacGregor was leaning towards Adam Larsson at that moment he naturally would have mentioned taking a D-man. I wouldn’t expect MacGregor to tell me or any other outlet, on the record at least, who they were taking, because it would take away that incredibly special moment for the player when his name is the first one called on June 24th. I’m very confident; however, it will be Nugent-Hopkins.

One other tidbit, the first team to interview Nugent-Hopkins at the combine this week was the Edmonton Oilers.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Over the past month I’ve had the chance to interview over 15 different independent scouts and NHL scouts, and all but one of them said if they had the first pick they would take Nugent-Hopkins. The one who didn’t chose him opted to not give an answer. Many listed Nugent-Hopkins’ hockey sense and vision on the ice as the main reasons they’d take him first. 

One of the most interesting responses came from Mark Edwards of www.HockeyProspect.com.

"He has the stuff you can’t teach. You can’t teach a player to go down and see the ice like he has 360 eyes in his head. I had to steal that line from Duncan Siemens when I asked him about playing against Nugent-Hopkins. He said, ‘Just when you think you have him, he looks out another eye in his head and sees another play that you couldn’t see, and boom, the pass goes tape-to-tape to another player, and it’s a great play that sets up another chance.’

"I think he is undervalued as a goal scorer. We all know what a great playmaker he is, but his shot is much better than many think. I see that elite player in him. To me he has separated from the pack. Our two through six or seven are a lot tighter, and I probably could sit down and do the rankings everyday and I could be convinced to move a guy up or down one, but for him he has been a constant number one since late December."

In three weeks the Oilers should have the 2nd player in franchise history to wear #93 when Tambellini steps up to the podium and announces, "With the first overall pick in 2011 draft, we are extremely excited to select from the Red Deer Rebels, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins."

Props to D.L. and J.M for some sweet photoshopping early this morning.

  • Via Copper & Blue, even-strength points per game for Major Junior forwards:

    Jonathan Huberdeau: 1.03

    Ryan Strome: 0.97

    Zach Phillips: 0.94

    Sven Bartschi: 0.93

    Sean Couturier: 0.91

    Gabriel Landeskog: 0.87

    Ty Rattie: 0.87

    Michael St. Croix: 0.76

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 0.67

    Or, total even-strength points over an 82-game season:

    Jonathan Huberdeau: 84

    Ryan Strome: 80

    Zach Phillips: 77

    Sven Bartschi: 76

    Sean Couturier: 75

    Gabriel Landeskog: 71

    Ty Rattie: 71

    Michael St. Croix: 62

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 55

    Obviously, there are a lot of other variables at play here – including qualiy of team, linemates, ice-time, etc. – but that gap really bothers me and I have yet to hear anyone address it in a way that allays my concerns.

    • Jason Gregor

      You seem to be the only one with this issue. I think you have answered your question yourself…Lots has to do with different linemates, quality of team, etc.

      They play in different leagues with different styles. Everyone knows the WHL is more defensive than the Q. That is a major factor.

      Stats tell one story, they don’t tell how many times a player set up his teammates only to have them not finish, which happened often for Hopkins. Also stats don’t exactly reflect Nugent-Hopkins ability to attack defenders and make plays all over the ice. People need to see that first hand to really appreciate it.

      Kids who play against him and almost every scout who has watched him likes him better. If that isn’t enough for you, that’s okay, but expecting some answer that will calm your concerns seems impossible, because there isn’t one that relates to data or stats.

      And every scout will tell you they don’t base their decision on just one season. Nugent-Hopkins has been a star since 14. He was the first pick in the bantam draft and has improved since.

      You can also look at the fact Nugent-Hopkins is that good on the PP with players who aren’t elite in the WHL. That should excite Oiler fans because their PP has been horrendous for a few years, and based on your reasoning he should be definitely help in that area.

      • There’s a couple of problems with this statement…

        1. The QMJHL averaged 6.72 goals/game this year while the WHL averaged 6.63 goals/game. If you gave the extra 0.09 goals per game to the WHL each team would see an average increase of 3.24 goals per season.

        2. How many more times did a teammate of RNH flash on a chance than a teammate of Couturier or Huberdeau? I mean if you had those numbers it might make an argument but we don’t.

        The problem stems from the fact that it’s very hard to find a player in today’s NHL who followed the same path as RNH did:

        A player who’s junior goals represented less than 30% of their total points and who’s ES points represented less than 50% of their total points.

        Sure it’s exciting to think of a player who is dominant on the PP in junior coming here and kick starting our PP. Only problem with that is we had that a few years ago with Schremp.

        Remember when he was kicking the tar out of PK’s back in London? He’d load up his big wrist shot and wire it home all day long.

        The problem is I have yet to see an NHL team give you the time and space to make a play that a CHL team does on the PK.

        And if your bread and butter is beating up on CHL PK’s while your ES offense is a step behind that could hint at a big flaw.

    • Jason Gregor

      JW have you seen the Rebels live? Or watch the memorial cup?

      If you want to compare Huberdeau and RNH’s evenstrength production factors like QUALTEAM, TOI, and considerations regarding the league they are in are VERY important.

      For example, Huberdeau played on a way better offensive team, with better offensive players – that alone serves as a boost to his number. Add in the factor that the top teams in the Q spend a lot of time laying waste to the weaker teams in the league (there are only 16 teams in the Q, and the bottom 4 or 6 are terrible). Again boosting his numbers. It also helps that St. Johns rode Huberdeau hard in the Mem Cup – which would suggest he got a lot of icetime all season.

      RNH played on a team that scored at below league average and was directly responsible for nearly half of it. Which is impressive. Then when we compare Persson and Kudrna to Philips and Jurco and Bealieau it is obvious who is getting more help. All three of those players from St. Johns are going to be top 20 picks and at least 2 in the top 10. Persson and Kudrna are 19 year old undrafted players. In fact there were lots of rumours that Red Deer was going to drop Persson before the season started because they thought he was a waste of an import spot. Now if we also look at the fact that Red Deers second leading scorer and only EVS threat outside of RNH never played with him at EVS, as well as the fact that RNH recieved (from my observation and subsequent educated guess)less icetime help to explain the difference.

      You really need consider how Red Deer operated. The Rebels system was simple, force outside shots on Keumper and allow him to carry the team at evenstrength then quick transition to create penalties and beat opponents on special teams. Literally there was nothing doing at EVS for the Rebels, Wallin’s system didn’t really allow for it.

    • raceguy

      One huge difference between the QMJL and WHL is time spent on the power play and killing penalties.The OHL was somewhere in between.I am listing the teams for the 4 centreman that are in play.

      SJ had 295 powerplays and killed 282 penalties over 68 games.(huberdeau)

      Drummondville had 270 powerplays and killed 266 penalties over 68 games.(couturier)

      Red Deer had 360 powerplays and killed 345 penalties in 72 games(rnh)

      Niagra had 299 powerplays and killed 338 penalties in 68 games(strome)

      SJ was a powerhouse in the Q this year. Here are the teams even strength goals per game

      SJ 3.47
      Drummondville 2.47
      Red Deer 2.51
      Niagra 2.83

  • @ Jason Gregor:

    It doesn’t have to be a stats-based answer, just an explanation for why Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t score very well at even-strength. I’ve never seen a satisfactory answer to that question.

    For instance, you say the WHL is more defensive than the QMJHL. I know that’s the conventional wisdom, but it simply isn’t true. This season, OHL teams averagd 3.63 goals-per-game, WHL teams averaged 3.38, and QMJHL teams averaged 3.36. That line about the ‘Q’ is a holdover from years ago when it was the most offensive junior league, but that hasn’t been the case for years now.

    Meanwhile, the linemates argument has some merit, but not enough to account for such a huge difference (a 20-30% dropoff from other prospects). And on the power play, Nugent-Hopkins is playing with an elite WHL scorer – Byron Froese is a top-10 guy in the league.

    I’m not trying to be a rabble-rouser here, I’m just trying to figure out why Nugent-Hopkins can’t score at evens. That’s a critical, critical, hockey skill, and nobody seems to be talking about it.

    • Jason Gregor

      It seems what answer anyone gives you it won’t be enough. You are certain it is a major flaw in his game. That is fine, but I and most scouts don’t see it.

      Have you actually watched him play once? If not, then you won’t really see how his vision and ability to make plays from nothing is what separates him from other. No statistic will show that.

      And so Froese is one guy. Look at how many of Huberdeau teammates/linemates will be first round picks this month. They have elite skill on that team and proved it by winning the Memorial Cup.

      It was one season, and every team had a game plan to shut him down because he was miles ahead of his linemates in skill.

      He likely won’t dominate 5-on-5 in the NHL right away, I wouldn’t expect him to, but in time his ability will have him as a very productive NHLer. IMO.

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      Bieber fever, dude! It’s very infectious.

      Edit: Gregor…. you can’t be messin with my awesome jokes by editing the article and a comment I’m replying to…. YOU KNOW HOW MANY PROPS I MISSED OUT ON?!

  • The Nuge was in on 40% of all Red Deer Rebel goals this year. That number is incredible. MacGregor said once that he saw enough of him to see that he’s the guy that stirs the drink. I disagree. This guy WAS the drink in Red Deer last season.

  • T.C.

    Jake – I heard he was double teamed every time he was on the ice, hard to move around and make plays when you hve two guys following every move. When Red Deer relies on RNH too much it is easy to take him out of the play then basically 40% of you goals are gone as the rest of the team is just filler.

    RNH, as has been said before make the offence go in Red Deer. Remove him and there is little left. Not to mention our goalie prospect Tyler Bunz for the Tigers was standing on his head for that series too.

    The future looks bright folks, the future looks bright. I for one, am willing to stick out these growing pains if it means we will have a powerhouse in a few years.

  • Hopkins now seems the Oiler of choice , seeing as Oilers playing to lose as much as possible over next 3 years . That’s right , Oilers playing to deliberately lose by design over next 3 seasons ! Thats a sick attitude , but thats the Oiler plan as per Journal article today calling for tanking each season until at least 2013 .

    I’d like to see league step in and prevent teams like our Oilers from deliberately tanking for such extended periods by changing the draft to prevent this sort of B.S . happening in the future to any and all teams . You finish in lottery one year , then you can’t finish in lottery for next 4-5 years to help prevent teams from tanking deliberately . Each subsequent year you go up at least another 5 spots , so by 5th year the best you can get is 25th spot .

    Sad and sickening to hear our team is deliberately trying to tank each season up to 2013 ! Sure explains why management in no hurry to try and help our club get any better . Crap , anybody could manage a job to finish deadlast for 5 years .

    This strategy of management doing long term deliberate tanking of multiple seasons has got to stop and i hope by next season the league will be in a position where they prevent his sort of managing from happening ever again!!

    Make the teams play to win , and change the nature of the draft to prevent it >

      • Edmonton Journal section and page B3 – middle of page under heading from National Post “Oilers in no rush to transform into a winner ” . It should sicken every Oiler fan this deliberate tanking ! Explains vividly why they refuse to try and field a half decent on ice club , and why they are passing on so many players they can/ could have acquired over last couple of seasons , as well as why they will contionue to do so for many a year to come yet ! Makes you sick to your stomach just to read article . It would serve us right if they all turn out to be a bust , and the other ones just want out of here . No wonder no one wants to play here , with the type of culture and attitude our club has that runs it .

    • The Draft is there to prevent teams like the Oilers from being Perrenial Losers. Without it there would be no hope of pulling out of this tailspin we call the Tambellini era. No Hall, No Hopkins or Larsson.

      The Penguins wouldnt be Cup Champs, neither would the Canes or the Blackhawks. Punishing teams for doing poorly will only crush the worst teams in the league and give them zero hope of becoming competitive again.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Hey Arch, I came accross this while engaged in another debate, so I thought I’d pull it up seeing as you said you were looking forward to seeing how our opinions played out (granted I am a year late):

        “@ Ogden Brother: So you think that, despite reports from every major outlet saying the exact opposite, the NHL will thrive this year and the Cap wont fall because history says that the GDP of the US will be ok? Well, you’re on record and I cant wait for this time next year to see if youre right. However the only reason the Cap went up THIS year, when the economy was peachy during season ticket renewal season, was due to a 5% inflator agreed upon by the players. The Cap actually dropped. Next year the Cap will go down even further, unless EVERYONE except Ogden Brother is wrong.

        Are you seriously tring to tell me that the sky isnt blue or grass isnt green? What are you arguing here? I’m not saying the economy wont get better, but it isnt good right now and that has already affected the NHL and by all accounts will impact it even further this coming year.”

        😉

    • Shredder

      That’s just a journalist’s opinion. I know they don’t want to tank again, they are now ramping up to make the playoffs…to do so next year would be an incredible feat, but the players have come out and said they’re done with losing. That’s a good sign.

  • knee deep in it

    you can send a kid back to junior after 10 games. The only issue is that you will have burned one year of his nhl rights. He becomes ufa one year sooner than if he only played 9 games.

      • It is pretty sizable, that’s for sure.

        The thing that is delaying production is that I can only collect hairs by digging through Hallsy’s trash, pretending to be an employee of his house cleaning service, hiding in the trunk of his car or placing him at gunpoint and asking for hair.

        That kind of stuff takes organization and planning…and guns. I have a full time job, so I get to the hairdoll when I can.

        I think Wanye’s Eberle is about 78% complete. I’m sitting around 89% complete. I just need Hallsy to get back to YEG so I can finish it.

        *returns to tarp-tent set up in park across from Hall’s residence*

  • That is a great quote from Siemens about RNH having 360 eyes in his head.

    That is how I saw RNH in the series vs. the Oil Kings. Loved his game, and Bruce McCurdy, who has seen the kid more than 10 times, says the same.

    Now, I also really liked Larsson’s game at the World Juniors, but I’m with you on drafting a forward, not a d-man, with the first overall pick, given the structure of the CBA, where you only have a player for seven years, and given how long it takes for d-men to develop.

    • Jason Gregor

      Definitely a unique quote from Siemens, and it illustrates how dynamic Nugent-Hopkins is with the puck.

      For me it would be a huge mistake to take Larsson, for same reasons as you, plus I think Nugent-Hopkins is that dynamic centre the Oilers hvae been missing since Doug Weight left.

  • Shredder

    RNH has come out and said he could make the NHL next year! I love his hunger for the NHL and confidence in himself. I personally believe in this kid and am 99% sure that he’ll be drafted #1 overall. I’m sure if he makes the NHL right off the bat next year, he’ll have his growing pains…but he’s already added 9 pounds and he’s confident he’ll be able to put on another 5-10, so that to me tells me he’s going to put the push on in training camp.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    #93? Too bad they retired #9. Would look pretty cool seeing #4 and #9 working the PP. Really they should have just honoured all the other numbers except 99 of course! And I’m a huge 17 fan!