Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog are opposites who will be forever linked and compared by virtue of when they were selected at the 2011 Entry Draft in Minnesota. That much we do know.
As to whether the Edmonton Oilers got the better player in the cerebral Nugent-Hopkins with the first overall pick or the Colorado Avalanche hit the jackpot with the bullish Landeskog with the second overall pick won’t be decided for many for years, of course.
Still, with Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog off to outstanding starts in their first NHL seasons, their first-ever head-to-head meeting as pros tonight at the Pepsi Center in the 10th NHL game for both youngsters does hold some intrigue.
Early on, as was the case going into the draft, there’s been little to choose between Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog, the stud Swede Jonathan Willis of Oilersnation suggested would be a better selection with the first overall pick in an article Feb. 5 oilersnation.com/2011/2/5/the-first-overall-pick-avoid-nugent-hopkins
While Nugent-Hopkins has more than lived up to his advanced billing so far with 5-4-9 in nine games, Landeskog, thought by many scouts to be the most "NHL-ready" player going into the draft, hasn’t exactly looked like a consolation prize with 4-2-6 in his first nine games.
Based on their first nine games, Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog look like they’ll garner an a lot of votes for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie this season. They’re distinctly different players, of course.
Nugent-Hopkins, 18, as Oilers fans are seeing now, was a unanimous choice by Edmonton’s scouting staff because of his on-ice vision and ability to think the game and distribute the puck. He hasn’t disappointed between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
Landeskog, who has been playing left wing on a line with Ryan O’Reilly and Daniel Winnik in Denver, is more along the lines of Hall — a dynamic winger who likes to lug the rubber to the net.
At six-foot-one and 204 pounds, Landeskog is a more robust player. He loves to shoot the puck — he leads all NHL rookies with 36 shots on goal. While Landeskog managed just 36 goals with Kitchener of the OHL in 2010-11, he got that many in just 53 games.
Like Hall, some hockey people thought Landeskog might be a perfect complement to some of Edmonton’s smaller, skilled forwards. Tonight, they’ll line-up across from him. I’m guessing he’ll be a handful.
First glimpse. Should be fun.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.