RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS: THE TOTAL PACKAGE?

Hockey players with great talent can get by with a so-so work ethic and attention to detail. Players with great work ethic and attention to detail can get by with so-so talent. Those with great talent and a similar work ethic and attention to detail can be something special.

Fans of the Edmonton Oilers can likely name a half-dozen players who fall into the first two categories. Imagine an honest ham-and-egger like stats-guy favourite Liam Reddox with the offensive talent to match how diligently he works at his game.

Imagine if Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner had the determination to work, prepare and perform consistently in concert with their considerable talents. What if they had Ryan Smyth’s jam? Could Hemsky be a great player instead of a very good player? How good would Penner be if he brought it 65 games a season instead of 45?

Given all the above, and all the examples I’m sure you can think of, I listened with interest today when Oilers co-ordinator of player development talked about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins today with Bob Stauffer On Oilers Lunch on TEAM 1260.

When Moores, a career coach for more than 30 years, talks, I listen. And he had plenty of glowing praise for Nugent-Hopkins today.

THE WAY MOORES SEES IT.

Nugent-Hopkins, of course, had all eyes on him last week at Millennium Place during the Oilers development camp as fans checked out the slight centre from the Red Deer Rebels, taken first overall in Minnesota.

Slick, quick and impressive was the 18-year-old Nugent-Hopkins, but to hear Moores tell it, there’s more than meets the eye.

"I read one comment that he’s not a very good practise player in the paper," Moores said. "I beg to differ because his habits are impeccable.

"The whole basis of the camp was not to scrimmage because these kids have scrimmaged their whole lives. What we’re trying to do is teach them concepts and tactics, individual tactics in particular — habits that are important for them, position-specific things.

"His habits are just impeccable. He does all the things that you need to have to continue with the foundation for a career. He’s got that, and then, obviously, his vision on the ice, his ability to make plays other players can’t make."

You’d expect Nugent-Hopkins, who had 106 points with the Rebels last season, to stand out in a prospects camp — he’s skating with prospects taken in lower rounds. Some might be steals. Some are guesses. He is supposed to stand out. That much is obvious.

The learning curve for Nugent-Hopkins will continue with how he trains this off-season. It’ll continue when he faces live fire at a prospects tournament in Penticton and, then, at training camp and in pre-season, where he’ll get a long, long look.

THE DIFFERENCE

It goes without saying Nugent-Hopkins has a long way to go before he makes Edmonton’s roster, let alone a dent in the NHL. He has to get stronger. He has to stay healthy. Timing and circumstance have to fall in his favour. So many wildcards. It’ll take patience because there is no guarantee he’ll play this season in the NHL beyond 10 games.

That said, I’m a lot more likely to put my money on a kid like Nugent-Hopkins, if he possesses the qualities Moores believes he does, than a hard-working grunt without the game to make it pay off, or on a slacker who doesn’t make the most of his talent.

Stauffer asked about talented, young players without the commitment to working on their games.

"I think you’re right," Moores said. "That’s kind of the way it was for a long time, that some of the more gifted players maybe weren’t as focused on habits. I think that’s changed.

"A lot of the players that are real good, the Crosbys and that, their habits are very, very good, so it’s a complete package. When I look at Nugent-Hopkins, it’s obvious he’s been well-coached. It just didn’t happen at this development camp.

"We talked about the things, the habits and spelled them out, went over them daily and added to them. He did them right away. He’s been well-coached, like a lot of these players have.

"I think now, those players are expected to have the good habits, too, because that’s the foundation that allows them to play at the higher level. The game is so fast now, if you don’t have good habits, it’s really difficult to do some of the things you want to get done out there."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Dipstick

    really…FIST…. RNH looked like he should at the dev camp I agree. I really liked Lander, Hamilton and Pitlick as well. Most dissapointed in Jeremy Blain, kid looked awfull.

  • Dipstick

    If he needs more work before making the jump to the NHL, I hope that the Oil engineer a WHL trade for him to go to the Oil Kings. They could ensure that he gets ice time at ES and PK. I doubt that the Rebels would be as motivated to help him round out his skill set.

    • D-Man

      I don’t think the Oilers, even though they own the Oil Kings, they’d suggest for something along those lines… The GM of the Oil Kings has to put the best lineup possible on the ice. Don’t get me wrong – RNH on the Oil Kings would be spectacular, but even if Red Deer would make that trade, you’d have to give up so much for RNH – the trade wouldn’t make sense (especially if RNH is on the Oilers the year following).

      If RNH doesn’t make the squad, he’d be by far Red Deer’s best player and one of the best players in the WHL. Red Deer’s GM and coach are paid to win games – why wouldn’t they give RNH all the ice time he wants, in different situations?? The developmental camp also has provided RNH a list of areas he would need to improve on… Considering his experience with developing talent – I’d trust Billy Moore’s opinion over any other blogger on Oiler Nation.

      • Dipstick

        I dunno. The Oil could let Red Deer know that they would rather keep him at the NHL rather than let him go back to Red Deer. That might motivate the club to make a deal. Red Deer has no interest in helping RNH develop at ES or PK. They would want to save as much of his playing time for the PP where he is most valuable. Just my opinion.

        • D-Man

          You could be right – but if that was the case, you’d have every NHL team calling the WHL, OHL and QJML to have their draft picks be playing certain ways, positions, etc. I don’t think the WHL or any other organized league would deal with that type of collusion…

          For the record, I’ve never seen RNH play, but if he’s as good as a #1 overall pick would be – Red Deer would be nuts to give him less that 22 to 24 minutes of ice time period… Sure, you might not want to play him on the PK – but chances are RNH wouldn’t play on the PK here on the big club… There’s three or four veterans ahead of him here. He’d has a 10 plus year career to learn that aspect of his game – if RNH can play a regular shift and dominate on the PP – I don’t think we’d miss the fact that he might not be good on the PK to start.

      • O.C.

        Plus how hard is it to keep tabs on RNH in Red Deer. It’s already a pretty damned good situation. World Junior Championships being held in Edmonton/Calgary as well…the Oilers certainly can’t complain.

        • BArmstrong

          Plus I don’t think Red Deer would trade him, they will have a good team next year and if he goes back they will compete and probably be favorites for the mem cup. (Saint John will be scary good though)

          • Dipstick

            Interesting read but I don’t think that’s how it goes down and I would argue that the Oilers wouldn’t do business like that. I believe they treat each team differently and don’t see the Oil Kings as a farm team (Brownlee?). Yes some circumstances like Abney and Pelss and Gernat this year.

            I would say for certain that the Oilers would not contact teams and “black mail” them to trade prospects to the Oil Kings…its not good business and it sure doesn’t make things easy for them in the future when asking for info on prospects from coaches and management.

            There is no way Red Deer trades RNH unless they are getting Lazar and I don’t know if the Oil Kings would do that for a shot at RNH (Or even for him for one year) and Red Deer would be better off taking the chance that he comes back and having him and being Mem Cup contenders then trading him and getting spare parts.

  • Ill take “driven” over talented every time. Given that the kid has both and that comes from an old, wise, been there done that, sober second thought kinda dude like Moores.

    It does lead to some cautious optimism that the trainwreck sh*tshow might be moving on out………. finally.

    • D-Man

      Ill take a team of talented over “driven”. 12 penners at forward, 6 gilberts on d, beat out 12 reddox’s and 6 strudwicks.

      *kind of feel bad using struds in that scenario

      • big joe grizzley

        The morale of your team would be at an all time lowe when a midget like reddox completely works over the penners on your team. And what good would all that talent be when your team can’t get the puck on next with the hard work shot blocking and relentless pressure being put on them. They would be so lazy they wouldn’t even half ass it on the back check.

        • O.C.

          I know, its sad. I’m kind of embaressed that you called it my team. That said, the Penner team win 1-0 in ot. once the penners get hungry and realize they have cold pizza in the fridge. shots would be 78-1 in favor of the reddox’s. They get a A+ for effort though.

  • Souby

    The kid looked impressive against the other rooks on Saturday. He made some nice moves and definitely has a lot of skill. I am sure the Oil will give him every chance to crack the roster in the fall.

    I liked a few other players too. Lander, Pitlick and Musil were good but I was impressed with Teubert. He moves well for a big kid and needs to fill out some more, but I really liked his compete level and more importantly, his leadership out there. I watched him a few times being verbal with his teammates to communicate where he was going and what to watch for a plays developed.

    Size, talent and leadership…hopefully Teubert can translate that to the NHL sooner rather than later.

  • It’s great to hear so much praise for this kid. What I liked the best coming out of the development camp was how much he impressed people with his shot. Sure he will always be a pass first player, but if he does have a heavy, accurate shot with a quick release, the tandem of RNH/Hall/Eberle is going to wreak havoc on goalies for years to come.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This is going to be a difficult decision for the Oilers in October. His future is here with the Oilers, not running roughshod over kids in the WHL. With Eager and Hordichuk here maybe they can shelter him the first half like they did with Taylor Hall. I’d like to see him stay the whole year if he can keep himself out of harms way like Gretzky was able to do.

    If the kids show they can compete, and at times dominate at this level, both Lander and Hopkins should stay. Lander, because of the current contract situation the Oilers have at center ice position will probably force him spend the first half season in the American league. It’s good to see a little actual depth at center on the farm instead of career AHL’ers O’Mara and Vandevelde. That should cost CCM a pretty penny to be seen anywhere near RNH.

    • Eddie Shore

      I wouldn’t underestimate VV. I think he could turn out to be a solid 4th Center. I agree keep RNH up. You know he would learn just as much only play around 60, maybe less, games next year. Give him a chance to observe the game and analyse it. This kid is very smart and I some 50+ games plus instuction and guidence off the ice during games from trainers and such would be very good for him. He might as well start getting comfortable with the team because he is going to be here for a long time.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    ….soon to be oilers lunch on 630ched…and by the way, have you had some great tasting ribs yet? in your new christensen developments condo? driven an audi?

    ~cant wait for the katz infommercial machine to really take hold when the ass kissers at ched get ahold of oilers lunch~

    oh yah, RNH. he = good.

  • big joe grizzley

    the worm has turned for the soon to be mighty oilers…we crawled out of the sludge in the bottom of the pit, only to see top end talent and freaken hope everywhere,grizzley loves it…the days of getting pumped dry are coming to a end,the rest of the west better watch out the next 3 to 5 years are gonna be very special…soak it in oiler fans,this type of talent doesnt come around very often…bjg is out

  • knee deep in it

    one thing that is under the radar is the absolute commitment to defence that the rebels play. They allowed 159 goals against last year.

    The 2nd best defensive team allowed 193 goals against. That is an unbelievable difference betwen the top team and the 2nd best team.

    If RNH was traded to the London Knights, he would score 160 points next year.

  • O.C.

    1) If Red Deer retains rights, call him up on the important games for Red Deer.

    or

    2) If they trade him to Oil Kings, call him up every so often to practice with and play with Oil the odd time

    Either scenario, up to mid December.

    Then send him to World Juniors. He deserves that.

    After Juniors

    See where the Oil are at, where he is at, make a decision.

    • D-Man

      Could you even do that?? I thought he gets only nine games in the big show before you burn the first year of his ELC?

      I don’t think you need to be as complicated as to what you propose… If he’s good enough – he plays in the NHL (and you seriously consider letting him go to the WJHC); if he hasn’t shown that he’s ready – he stays in Red Deer.

        • D-Man

          To me – calling him up for nine games throughout the season would only hurt his development?? We have 34 games before the World Juniors?? Wouldn’t that be confusing for the kid to come up for one game at a time, get 12 to 15 minutes of ice-time and then fly back to Red Deer? Makes more sense to give him nine games in a row so he has a ton of time to find his legs and prove himself…

    • If RNH is sent down to the WHL, he is not able to come back up to the NHL until after his team has been eliminated from the playoffs. It would be exactly like what happened with Eberle, the Oilers had to wait until the Pats season/post season was over before they could place him in the AHL.

      If the Oilers wanted to keep RNH up with the big club until the WJC, they would have to do the same thing that LA did with Schenn this year. Which would be ridiculous to play him 8 games and have him sit around and just practice with the big club before sending him back down for the remainder of the year.

  • BArmstrong

    Brownlee do you think it would work if RNH Centered Eager and Jones? He would play soft minutes he would for sure have shelter (If anyone touches the kid Eager would be all over that) and these guys crash the net and go to the tough areas which would help him out and then he can play 1st Unit PP or just get lots of powerplay time and if injuries happen he moves up and gets more minutes but he gets his barrings and eases his way in?

    Kind of like Seguin only actually gets to play during the regular season, I would like RNH on a skill line but do you think that would work?

    • Mantastic

      then at max he would be getting roughly 10min EVs and 2+min of PP which really isn’t going to help him become a better player.

      you get better by playing more, RNH needs 15+min a night to help his development and playing with plugs doesn’t help anyone.

      • I agree with you but I was just thinking it might be an idea to start the season, I am sure he would get that by the end of the year but it might be a nice cushy way to ease him in for October/November. Ideally playing on a skill line would be best but just spitballin till we see him in TC this fall.

  • O.C.

    Ah, my bad – didn’t realize you couldn’t send back and forth to Junior.

    I thought M Andre Fleury went back and forth, was wrong…

    …strange you can loan to World Junior team, but not to the Junior Team?

    Can you loan to the WJ team if they’ve played ten games?

    My guess = yes.

    (I know google is our friend…. brain fried.)

  • If Hopkins can prove he can compete and stay relatively consistent for a rookie the Oilers are going to have some decisions to make sooner then later.

    If you take the scenario where Hopkins plays almost the same roll as Seguin did in Boston then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hopkins stays on the team.

    I also believe that placed in the 3rd line roll with sheltered minutes will be more beneficial then sending him down to the Rebels to play against prospects. Just look at his skill set comparable to those at the development camp for an indication on how above the curve he really is.

    This is just me speculating, and I maybe way off here, but I have a feeling both Lander and Hopkins make this team this year.

    • Dipstick

      My thoughts exactly. Maybe Lander starts in OK but I’d bet my house he finishes with the big boys. And off what we saw at the development camp RNH has nothing to gain from swimming with the minnows in the WHL. I believe Professor Moores. The kid will be 180 to start the season and I’m betting he gets second to third line minutes,and second PP center. He’s better than Seguin, imho. Which means adios to Cogs, Brule, and maybe even Gagner.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    Just for curiosity’s sake I went and looked at a Philadelphia Flyer’s blog. Good blog. However, those guys don’t even seem to consider playing Couturier this year, and it’s not because they are ignorant to his potential. When Oiler’s fans were deliberating over which kid to snag with the first overall, Couturier was figured by many to be one of the most NHL ready (Landeskog as well). This was mostly because of his size, but the fact remains that deeper teams don’t rush this this stuff. It’s of course uncommon for a first overall pick to wait a year, but that can’t be what forces our hand to throw RNH in the mix. If the young man can play well enough sure, but barring a lights-out camp and preseason let him develop in Red Deer a little more. I think.

  • BArmstrong

    I can’t remember who posted it a couple weeks past – I think either Racki or Nate, but their idea was to play RNH for nine games sitting him out of a couple of tough road games – they had the schedule mapped out. After the nine, training camp for the WJC would be right around the corner, and they could send him. After the WJ, a decision could be made – Oilers or Rebels.

    It sounded like a great idea – I hope they re-post.

  • O.C.

    From the outhouse to a powerhouse in two days ? Hope replaced by promise and optimism ? How many newbies might crack this years lineup and be upgrades from last season ? Landers , Tremblay , Musil , Hamilton , Hopkins just for starters . The odd one from last season like Hartekainen, Vandevelde and Omark . Add that to an impressive core of NHL veterans like they acquired draft day , as well as Smyth and their is more reason to underestimate our club than maybe over estimate the team . Better defensively and maybe our goaltending will now be better just because of that alone ! Three aspects of a competing team in place in a very short time frame . Now our rookies have some viable tools in which to develop .

    • Dan the Man

      I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic and if you’re not then I would disagree. Not trying to be a complete downer but a lot of things have to go right before the Oilers can even be competitive.

      1. The 4 kids (Omark, Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi) all have to make significant strides in their game.

      2. Smyth, Horcoff, and Hemsky have to maintain their level of play. Yes Hemsky is only 28 but with some significant injuries over the past few years there will be question marks on whether he can maintain a ppg pace. Ditto goes for Smyth and Horcoff as a combination of injuries and age over the past few years will cause a decline in their quality of play, at this point we can only hope it doesn’t happen in 11/12.

      3. Devan Dubnyk, like the 4 core youngsters mentioned above will have to make big strides in finding consistency to his game as NK will not be bouncing back. He’s a 38 year old and his game will only continue to decline after being a starter since 1995.

      Also Hamilton, Lander, Musil, Tremblay, and Hopkins are not guaranteed to start. In fact outside of Nugent Hopkins and possibly Lander the others are at least 2-3 years away, more in the case of Musil as he is a defenceman and they generally need anywhere from 6-8 years to be NHL ready. Also outside of Smyth and Belanger the veterans they acquired are far from impressive. Eager is an upgrade over JFJ but let’s face it a soda can with a mini hockey stick taped to it is an upgrade over JFJ. While Sutton and Hordichuk are at this point a 7th dman and a 14th-15th forward respectively. Barker has pedigree but again a ton of question marks as he was bought out by the Wild and was part of a pretty good defence and wasn’t really playing tough minutes for them either as Zidlicky, Burns, Zanon, Schultz, Stoner, and Spurgeon passed him by on the depth chart. There is reason for optimism but unless Tambellini makes deals for a solid 1B goalie and finds at least another top 4 dman, 2 of course would be better, then they are going to be on the outside looking in for 2011/12

  • Dan the Man

    Per Oilers Press Relaease:

    Oilers acquire second-round draft pick
    Draft choice acquired from Anaheim in exchange for Andrew Cogliano

    General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have acquired a second round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Andrew Cogliano.

    The acquired pick now gives Edmonton eight selections in the 2013 Entry Draft.

    Cogliano, 24, was drafted by Edmonton in the 1st round, 25th overall, in 2005. In 328 career games with the Oilers, the Toronto, Ontario native had 146 points (57G, 89A).

    http://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=569106

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I guess that helps to answer the question of who’s worth more:

    The guy that trys hard and doesn’t accomplish much.

    The guy that doesn’t try so hard but accomplishes quite a bit.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I know i’ll be the first one biotching and screaming all season long if it’s another difficult year but i would sure love to have just one more top 3 pick in next summers entry draft again. If Hopkins returns to Red Deer, combined with a few high profile injuries and sub .900 goaltending this coming season, we may not be that far off. Oilers finish 26th and win the lotto.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        We said the same thing last year. The Smyth deal alone will make a big difference i’m sure, so you may get your wish. There are alot of open ended possibilities this yr, does Barker return to the form of 3 yrs ago, how many stupid penalties will Eager,Sutton and Hordichuk take? I really think it’s a flip of a coin what we get this year. After 20 gms we should know which we’ll be closer to.