What to Expect from Nugent-Hopkins

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.

    • 24% body fat

      if he does that he will probably better than hall will be. There are a lot of people who will say that Joe and Stevey were top 10 ever. Numbers will argue this for there offense, plus both were known for a very good defensive side of the game.

      Could you imagine if RNH ended up like one of them and Hall was better offensively?

      Holly cow that would be sick.

      I still think hall will be the better player

  • Bucknuck

    I am trying not to expect anything… and then to just enjoy the ride. I know it will be more fun than the last five years have been, and less fun than 1984, but other than that it’s wide open.

    Bring it!

  • A good comparable for RNH is unfortunately Ales Hemsky.

    Virtually the same size when they were drafted, similar skill set, and production in the CHL.

    Hopefully Nugent-Hopkins continues to develop his game and shoots the puck a bit more than Hemsky in the NHL.

    If RNH can play 78-82 games and be 10-15% more productive than Hemsky the Oilers have a player.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Doesn’t matter which beetches Hall,Hopkins and Eberle line up against this season. They will harvest nearly 180 pts between the three of them. Hall 65pts,Hopkins 56pts and Eberle will bat clean up with 58pts. Eager should see some spot duty on that line just to rub a little salt in the wound.

    DIE CALGARY DIE!

        • Lowetide

          Years and years ago (and I mean years ago) I used to work morning radio in Regina. The station I worked for did a “Santa” segment where kids would call in and tell us what they wanted from Santa.

          Kids are great on radio because everyone cheers for them. Men, women, old, young, doesn’t matter. Everyone loves kids on the radio.

          Anyway, this one day I was on the air and the Santa feature comes up. I ask the kid his name (it was Danny or something) and his age (11) and then say “what would you like for Christmas?”

          Answer: Alyssa Milano.

          Best. line. ever. And from a kid no less. 🙂

        • 24% body fat

          No disrespect to Lowetide, but he probably couldnt have found a less flattering photo of Miss Milano. I suspect it has something to do with her shirt of choice. She has always been somewhat of a puck bunny and hot as they come.

  • Well, if the kid busts out, or merely disappoints, then the mathmatographers will get to boast and say “I told you so”.

    That’s a junky list of comparables for our new 1st overall. It seems to be based on the rickithebear patented goals to assist ratio golden formula. Its a poor criteria to use. Ratios fluctuate constantly, RNH’s certainly did from 16 yr old season to 17 yr old.

  • LT,

    I agree with Rishaug heavily on RNH up to now.

    That’s the best comparable I have on RNH at the moment. He always wants the puck, even when it’s in the defensive zone and he usually ends up with it.

    He’ll need to work on faceoffs and not giving refs the stink eye.

    It’ll be fun to watch him play the Red & White game with NHL talent his age, rookie camp, training camp, and 9 NHL games. The Oilers have plenty of opportunities to see if he’s ready. Nugent-Hopinks will be a star and I don’t care if it’s not in the NHL this year. Worst/best case the team drafts top 5 again and get an elite defenseman.

    The Oilers can’t lose this year in my mind.

    Now back to watching Canada Cup 87.. Canada V Russia round robin.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    All those rocket scientists like Zona and Reynolds who wanted to draft other players despite the scouts cant even get there facts straight.Bonsignore played in the Ohl not the Whl.He also played in an era where 2 pts per game was not uncommon.Come on give the kid a break

    • Lowetide

      Well I think they went about it the right way, looking for lottery picks who played in the CHL. The problem is that everyone looks at Bonsignore and instantly thinks that’s the point Reynolds is making.

      Bonsignore WAS a highly regarded prospect. If the Oilers hadn’t taken him someone would have done it soonafter.

      The point they’re making is that expecting huge numbers off the hop is not reasonable. I suggested the same during the RE 11-12 post over at Lowetide and suggested it tonight when saying “I believe it would be a major mistake to read too much into the current comparables offered by Mr. Reynolds. 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.”

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Oh and if he ends up like Voracek in 4 or 5 years we might as well trade him now as he’ll be run out of town somewhere around the 2014 season.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I still compare Hopkins to Daniel Briere at that age. Similar skating and stickhandling, although Briere was even smaller than Hopkins, but comparable in that his size was the big concern in trying to make it to the NHL. I think Briere has made up for his size by becoming a tougher, more aggressive player with each year of experience in the NHL, and I can only hope that Hopkins does the same. My major worry is that he’ll end up like Gagner, who is as weak and timid now as he was in his rookie year, hence the plateau in his play.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    The reality is a lot of people who saw RNH a lot say they have not seen any one with on Ice Vision like this sense #99 So we really do not have a clue how good he will or wont be. I am not expecting Gretzky2 but I do expect to see some amazingly sick hockey plays when he finds people with plays that we have not seen since 1988. In other words there are no comparables.

  • 24% body fat

    #ken

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Props to the guys who have the guts (reynolds and zona) to say they would have drafted someone else. Forming your own opinion based on numbers and research is much better than jumping on the band wagon of what you hear from scouts and media.

    While listening to the scouts may be the right choice, seeing the kid play or backing up with research (boxcars or advanced) shows that you are doing your homework and have an educated opinion.

    I respect your opinion, but have you seen RNH play or done deep research and comparison to the other picks.

    Couterier dropped in the ranking because he did not grow in his development. Kinda hard when you have mono. Yet statistically he still probably had the best season. Maybe strome did.

    It is documented on this site that in my opinion I picked strome to be the skinner this year. Maybe not the best player but could break out earlier. This is based on his development over last year and skill set in my research. If he busts I will eat my words.

    Oh and yes i think we should have and glad we did take RNH.

    • VMR

      I keep hearing the story that Couterier dropped because he didnt grow but I dont think that’s it.

      Zona at Copper and Blue had an interview with an eastern scout who said a lot of the other scouts thought he was going to be like Vinny Prospal, good if surrounded by other top end players but pretty forgetable if he’s not.

      There were more problems with SC’s game than just the fact he didnt grow this year. The scouts saw things they didnt like and they have to go with that. They could be wrong but I think they stand a better chance of getting it right than trying to pick entirely on the limited numbers available from the minor leagues (not to mention the difficulties of comparing between leagues).

        • VMR

          That’s how I was using the term grow as well. It’s not just that his game didnt better this year but there were several holes in his game the scouts saw that werent reflected in the stats. That’s why he dropped in the rankings and was drafted where he was.

  • paul wodehouse

    …RNH’s been touted as the best finesse player at the draft but why, after the kid’s been picked first overall are these zona and reynolds types still beating the “we shoulda picked someone else” drum…what is their collective agenda? and then the names like Bon[senorita] pop up with silly references to comparing him to Gretzky …whew…where are we going with this thought process…this young man will come into training camp and give his 2 hundred percent and make the team…period…i used to think he should be put back into another year of junior but it stopped making sense when Mr.Tambellini made all those right moves in that short period of time back last month…the team needs one more [hopefully top 4] Dman and a good back up to DD [our sober goalie] to improve and be the 2011-12 installment of team Oilers…imo…the scheduled rebuild continues…

  • paul wodehouse

    Dawgbone writes: “…The collective agenda is discussion… isn’t that obvious?

    You make your opinions known and you track them, hopefully seeing where you went wrong or right…”

    …i dunno about you but what’s obvious to me is that reynolds is wagging away about why the team didn’t pick Sean Couturier #1 overall…HUH?…it’s been over a month since the news broke about RNH being numero uno…helloooo!…if that discussion needs anything it’s a lot of explaining…imo and i’ve said it here once before, if Couturier went 8th to Philly, i need to know why our GM had his head up his a$$ so far after taking RNH first…in my opinion he should have been on the ball enough to make a deal to get the BIG centre in Oiler silks as well(or at least made a deal prior to the draft)…the mind boggles dawg…that you may subscribe to the idea that Couturier was a first overall caliber player to have replaced RNH on the podium…further to what i said before when pissed that our gm flubbed this opportunity…i think that if we had got both these players we could have really been fine with leaving RNH in junior another year and really groomed the BIG centre in the show…i hope when i track this thread now i am right…but i’d give it up if i was as wrong as these types who have this hate on for RNH even now …peace