Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Power Play Dynamo

It’s fair to say that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has caught a few people by surprise with his phenomenal start to the season. It would also be fair to say that I’m one of those people.

Both Tyler Dellow and David Staples had strong posts up on Nugent-Hopkins this morning. Staples spends some time trying to separate Nugent-Hopkins’ offense from his defense, and finds that while the former is phenomenal the latter needs some work. I think the take is fair and realistic – the player’s 18, after all. He’ll grow into the role.

Dellow’s post is the one I really want to focus on, though. After spending some time leafing through Nugent-Hopkins work at even-strength (the news is good, but not otherworldly – Nugent-Hopkins has had a lot going his way, and while his totals are good they aren’t way beyond what we would expect, given his draft position) Dellow keys in on power play performance. I’ll quote a single sentence from the article:

Having looked at the numbers here, I’ve come to a conclusion: he is a witch.

Which, I suppose, casts Tyler in the role of Sir Bedevere:

Essentially, Nugent-Hopkins’ performance this season marks him as the best power play option the league has seen in ages. He’s a dynamo. His overall point total – as projected by Tyler – is good, but when considered in the context of the number of power play minutes Nugent-Hopkins has received, it’s truly extraordinary.

This also gives me the answer to a question I’ve been asking since before draft day: Given that Nugent-Hopkins’ junior success was based to a large degree on power play points (his even-strength number was good but not mind-blowing, his power-play number was amazing), should we be concerned that he’s going to struggle at the NHL level? The answer, it seems, is clear: Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t just padding his numbers with power play time – he was driving the power play. Does that translate to the NHL? Not always, as we’ve seen with other Oilers prospects – Rob Schremp comes to mind – but in Nugent-Hopkins’ case it has.

Nugent-Hopkins’ game in other areas – defensively, offensively at even-strength – is good for his age but not superlatively so for a first overall pick. But, on the power play, Nugent-Hopkins is a legitimately elite NHL player at the age of 18. That’s a rarity indeed, and it seems as though the prescription for the Oilers’ chronic power play woes has finally arrived.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m telling you guys, don’t be fooled by his vast offensive skills, we should’ve sent him back to Red Deer. His off ice game leaves alot to be desired.

    He looks all of 6-1 and 185lbs now. Sure glad he didn’t get suspended for putting Brendan Morrow on the shelf for 2 1/2 weeks. Hopkins can be a nasty piece of binness when he wants.

  • At 18 years old RNH can make NHL calibre penalty killers do exactly what he wants them to do. He wants to draw them in before dishing off to an open man? He does it. He wants them to back off? They do. That is unreal. I concur with Tyler, he is a witch.

    His passing is off the charts good and he knows exactly what everybody on the ice is doing and what they’re GOING to do. The powerplay is rigged with him on the ice because the second the oilers establish possession the advantage swings wildly in his favor. It’s too late, at that point, for the penalty killers because RNH is pulling the strings.

    18 years old. What happens if this kid gets better?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Thing is… calling attention to the areas RNH needs work on… isn’t much of a story for an 18 year old rookie. It’s expected that a fair amount of grooming is going to have to take place and we all assume a player as dedicated as RNH will work hard to seal the deal in all areas.

    The real story is that he is delivering. The fact that he is getting prime zone starts and PP time DOES NOT take away from his success. Someone on the team has to get those starts and that time. The story is not that RNH is being “sheltered” or anything like that.

    The story is that at 18 he is being given those starts and that time because he is being wildly, witchlike productive with them! I doubt it is the the case that any player when given better starts and more PP time will automatically see their #s inflated to elite levels. Although I’m sure it helps a lot to have that advantage… it takes elite skill to seal the deal.

    For my money the story of RNH’s young career is his fulfilment of his elite prospect status.

    [edit] Per Tyler: My writing was a little sloppy there, sorry. I didn’t mean to say – although I appear to have implied it – RNH’s is delivering elite scoring at ES as well as on the PP. I meant more that he is delivering elite scoring in general (6th overall). My point is simply that he gets the “easy minutes” not simply because he is young and needs protection but also because he is the best scoring option in those situations and Renney is taking advantage of that. I tried to highlight that by suggesting that swapping his TOI with any other player would result in a net deficit in scoring (at least that’s my assumption). Is that more clear?

    BTW really enjoy your blog!

  • O.C.

    I doubt it is the the case that any player when given better starts and more PP time will automatically see their #s inflated to elite levels. Although I’m sure it helps a lot to have that advantage… it takes elite skill to seal the deal.

    Pretty sure the point of what I wrote is that I disagree with you at ES and agree about the PP.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Well when I was 18, I was upgrading my Grade 12, working at Zellers and trying to decide if Dock Martens were still cool. So relatively I think the kid’s doing alright. Mind you I weighed around 140 lbs at 18. Man I now wonder what it could have been if I had just put on more weight.

    I hope there comes a time in the season that he’s on for the full two minutes of all our PPs. A lot of the big names seem to get this.

  • Metal&Oil

    The Nuge is tied with Jonathan Toews as the highest scoring center in the NHL. Both have 29 pts in 27 games. Next to playing D, center is the hardest position to play as a rookie (IMO).

    I wanted the Oilers to draft Larrson and planned on being the kids biggest critic this year but he is now my favorite Oiler. Just goes to show how good he is and how wrong I was.

  • Talbot17

    Got to hand it to RNH, dealing with all the pressure and surpassing all expectations so far, is just downright impressive. Got to hand it to Eberle too though, every goal is a sick shot and those two as a duo will be unreal for years to come.

    RNH > Tebow

  • Beavis

    This was the first comment to appear on Staples’ article. I’ve quoted it in its entirety so it can be marvelled at in more than one place. I thought guys like this didn’t actually exist and just appeared on here in ALL CAPS to mock the “typical Oilers fan*”. Shows what I know.

    “To suggest RNH is more of a defensive liability than other Oilers is ludicrous. RNH is tied for 4th on the Oilers in +/- and is the top scorer. 12 Oilers have negative +/- ratings. Of the few Oilers games I’ve watched, RNH is among the first guys back, including defencemen, and he’s often in the crease preventing sure goals. I would argue he’s among the most effective forwards in the defensive aspect of the game.

    +/- is the only stat that really matters in hockey, because it says whether or not the other team scores more goals when a player is on the ice.

    Games are decided by goals, not hypothetical “scoring chances”. And to call RNH “lucky” after 27 games also is ludicrous. “Lucky” applies to one or two games, not 27. Simply put, talented people are usually “luckier” because they create their own opportunities rather than just wait for them to arrive. Usually, it is less skilled people who call more skilled people “lucky”.”

    *Though I have an outside suspicion that this guy is actually Wanye. If it were a posting about Eberle I’d be certain of it.

  • Metal&Oil

    This RNH guy seems pretty good. Maybe we should find him some help? Might bring a Cup back or something.

    Given ST’s acumen in doing little to plug the holes this year, I want to see a lottery pick this year or for me it’s another fail. In fact, if holes aren’t plugged from the trading deadline this year, through the summer before next season, another fail.

    Try to win or try to lose. The middle ground is a wasteland we have walked long enough. The next journey there needs to be one year short, or even shorter.

    • D-Man

      At the beginning of the season, I predicted no better than a 24th to 26th overall finish for the Oil… Honestly, we’ve lost enough as fans that we NEED to see improvement this year… I also think as RNH, Hall and Eberle take steps forward – we should also BE in the playoffs for the 2012-13 season… To get there – Tambo doesn’t need to make any stupid trades, but find another #2-#3 defensemen if available.

      Tambo has plugged some holes from last year… We’re winning more faceoffs and have better special teams from last year… I’ll admit he hasn’t done anything drastic to improve the back end – but Sutton, Potter and Barker (before injuries) were playing better than expected..

      I think if we end up playing meaningful games in January/February – this season would be a success… If we AREN’T in the playoffs though the year following – Katz will definitely need to address Tambo’s future as GM…

  • Metal&Oil

    RNH’s performance at age 18 in his first season is amazing. His phyical elusiveness has to be the talk of most dressing rooms around the league.

    The Oil can’t afford to rely on just one trick pony in the stable. Don’t start yapping about Eberle and Paajarvi because an 8 yr old Girl Scout says ‘boo’ and they vanish from the game. If the Oiler management and coaching performs true to form they will grind RNH into the ground. The GM and pro-scouting staff need to get off their collective derriers and re-enforce the roster with some creative acquisitions. The only thing Tamby seems good at is sitting on his hands and making abundant excuses relating how hard it is to make a trade. It seems clear they have no faith in most of their AHL roster because there are only two or three D-men getting a chance in Edmonton. How can one or two AHL players be any less affective than Paajarvi or Gagner?

    I’m not suggesting over-paying free agents but they need to be adding some size whether with overage/undrafted juniors or AHL players.

    It’s hard to suggest that the GM’s acquisitions this past summer have exactly blown my doors off. Eager plays like Casper the friendly ghost and we have to watch his disinterested play for three whole years. What kind of grade does the GM deserve based on the new acquisitions performance in the first 25 games? D-

    • D-Man

      I think you answered your own question… The only way the GM can get creative is by ‘over paying free agents’… The players you’re looking for to add size will not be coming from overage juniors or AHL players… Those players take years to develop as they might have the physical prowess, but lack speed or skill to play in the top nine…

      I agree that Eager up until this point has been a huge disappointment – as he’s been injured with a concussion and back spasms… I think Belanger was a good signing – along with Potter and Sutton… Petrell has done well too…

      Tambo deserves no less than a “B”… You seem to forget that we’re in year ‘two’ of the rebuild… This team has taken a huge step forward from last year… Patience is a virtue – get some…