The Edmonton Oilers keep walking away with the most attractive items at the draft–at least among draft eligibles.
I know for a fact that the curiousity level for information about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is off the charts. Recently, I began my "reasonable expectations" series for 11-12 over at the blog and RNH’s post has received more pageviews than anything that has ever appeared on my blog (5,000 views in four days and counting). That’s a lot of hits for a late July post, especially considering some of the epic game-day threads over the years.
I expect Scott Reynolds over at Copper and Blue is going to get a few thousand page views for his article early today about comparables for RNH. I won’t ruin it by revealing his conclusions but it’s worth the read.
I think part of the problem with looking for comparables in regard to RNH is that we’re not familiar enough with him to compare him in style to other players from our collective memory. I don’t believe there’s much sense in comparing a player who doesn’t play the same position or is much bigger or faster or slower to the guy we’re discussing, and I also don’t believe in comparing players across leagues. Fact is, the WHL really hasn’t seen many kids like RNH, who was a good WHLer at 16 and a much better one a year later.
WHERE DO WE START?
The day Steve Tambellini called his name, RNH was about 150 days younger than Taylor Hall was on his draft day. Age is a huge consideration with these kids, and then we can start looking at the math:
- Hall in draft year: 57, 40-66-106 (1.86 ppg)
- RNH in draft year: 69, 31-75-106 (1.54 ppg)
Definite advantage for Hall, who was older, bigger, faster and had a wicked release. Hall would be considered a more typical first overall pick: tremendous tools combined with abandon and the ability to dominate a 19-year old league at age 17. RNH’s game is more cerebral and there is some evidence that he didn’t play the kind of even strength minutes of past lottery selections.
In the spring, a couple of months before the draft, I had a chance to interview Cam Moon (play by play man for the Red Deer Rebels) and asked him a few questions about RNH. These points are taken from the post I made May 8:
- Moon on the EV time on ice: Cam Moon–as the PBP guy–is well qualified to speak to this issue. After all, he calls the team’s games all season long so would be the guy to answer the question. Moon told me yesterday that RNH plays on a "4line team" and there does seem to be some balance on the squad. 5 forwards scored more than 60 points during the regular year, 3 more between 27 and 40 points and two more regulars beyond that. So there’s 10 forwards we can scope from the boxcars, and they had a lot of kids who played partial seasons thrown in there too. Some of those kids (like Josh Cowen) were clearly getting legit minutes based on the boxcars.
- Moon on the quality of RNH’s linemates: He played with Andrej Kudrna (29 goals) and John Persson (33 goals) during the regular season. Moon mentioned that he considered them excellent WHL calibre wingers. Moon also suggested that Nugent-Hopkins did indeed play with Byron Froese on the PP.
Don’t be so sad
The saw him good group counsels us to remember that the kid is more than the boxcars. There’s some sustain in this player, he could be that complete player who delivers quality in important areas. Some quotes from the saw him good group:
- Ken Hitchcock: “My opinion on Nugent-Hopkins has changed … last summer I thought he reminded me of Joe Sakic, but it’s Pavel Datsyuk now. He strips people of the puck, he’s crafty in high-traffic areas, he dishes well, he’s got great patience with the puck. But, if you’re close to either one of those two guys (in ability), that’s a pretty good thing.”
- Craig Button: "He’s unique. You can’t trade for these guys and they don’t show up in free agency."
- Stu MacGregor: "I’ve watched the kid play at both ends and he seems to do a lot of things on the power play and 5-on-5, so it’s not a real issue at this point. He had the same number of points that Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin did last year. He rose to the occasion enough to be the leading scorer with his team and one of the top five in the WHL. He didn’t have a lot of guys to play with, but in the games I saw he was the guy who stirred the drink."
For me, I think we’re too early for comparables. We’ll know more about him a year from now, no matter where he plays. I believe Scott Reynolds’ look at comparables offers us an opportunity to keep our expectations in check, to make sure we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.
However, with TOI totals varying so much and the fact that RNH’s league rarely boasts such a player, I believe it would be a major mistake to read too much into the current comparables offered by Mr. Reynolds. We know he’s a quality prospect who had an outstanding junior season, and we know he’s a little younger than someone like Taylor Hall.
We should expect much more than Jason Bonsignore, and we don’t really know how good Jakub Voracek will be–that might be an excellent comparable. We won’t know for some time because Voracek’s career is in the early stages and RNH hasn’t played an NHL game.