Nuge Tops All Charts!

It’s been a long time since a WHL kid topped the draft rankings across the board. With the release of Redline Report’s latest top 10, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joins some select company.
 

The last time a WHL player went #1 overall, Chris Phillips was heading to Ottawa (1996). The last time a forward from the dub–an offensive dynamo–went at the top of the draft Mike Modano (1988) was moving from the PA Raiders to the North Stars of Minnesota. The last time a Canadian born kid playing in the WHL was selected number one overall and had a career as a forward, Wendel Clark was plucked by the Maple Leafs (1985). Even that has an asterisk, Clark played defense with the Saskatoon Blades in junior. The last time a bona fide WHL trained Canadian forward was taken #1 overall, Doug Wickenheiser (1980) was being announced as the top pick (to an angry group of fans) for the Montreal Canadiens.

The kid is chasing history

TOP OF THE CHARTS

As of the Redline release of their new top 10 (courtesy USA Today) Nugent-Hopkins is now number one on Bob McKenzie’s list (tsn), Redline’s list and the ISS list. Robin Brownlee’s recent articles that featured Stu MacGregor suggest the Oilers organization is also leaning this way.

WHAT MAKES HIM SO GOOD?

NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald
“(Nugent-Hopkins) has very good puck-handling capabilities. His on-ice awareness is very good. He’s one of those guys that knows where everyone is and where they should be and where the puck should go . . . He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand with that kind of vision. But not just the vision, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade — that’s hard to find.”

NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan
“A couple of people high up — and not naming names — said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky). That’s the highest compliment you can get. But the other thing is the way he competes. He never takes a night off and he works as hard in his own end as he does in the offensive zone and that takes a special player with a special set of skills to do that.”

 
NHL.com has a great view on the kid here. My favorite quote comes from the kid himself: "Well, I’ve really been working on by defensive game this year. I mean, I’ve always been more of an offensive-minded guy, and kind of let the defense come second, but I know that it’s a very important part of the game and I’m really trying to work on it this year. Because I’m a center, so I’ve got to stay low, support for my (defensemen) and just trying to stay on the defensive side of my man all the time."

Draft him, send him back to junior where he can help the Rebels try to win the WHL championship and maybe the Memorial Cup. Add in a WJ appearance and a season devoted to adding strength. That’s the ticket and as of today it’s unanimous.

 
 
Nation Radio is back on today at noon (Team 1260). You can email questions (excellent questions and comments btw) to nationradio@theteam1260.com and we’ll read as many as we can. Guests:
  • Dustin Nielson from Team 1260’s morning show. He’s a draft nerd! We’ll ask him about which sources he values most and get his take on the top of the draft.
  • Matt Bugg from dobber hockey. Another draft service that is getting ready for their final list and we’ll talk to Matt about some of those hidden gems.
  • Kirk Luedeke from Bruins Draft Watch. Kirk has been hitting it out of the park recently, we’ll discuss a few items including goalies and the top 8 picks in this year’s group.
  • Matt Fenwick, an entertaining fellow and a legend for his work at Battle of Alberta.

We may also have a few surprises in store, hope you send your thoughts along and tune in at noon. Have a great long weekend!

  • DonovanMD

    Much like LT, I was more of a Couterier guy for things like size, faceoffs and 2 way play (all offence being pretty equal of course…) but the way the Nuge has pulled away as the clear favorite combined with Couteriers drop has me figuring this many smart people can’t be wrong. I know these guys from youtube, if Stu says RNH is the best player available I am happy with that. Lets hope he is the next Sakic.

    • Lowetide

      At this point I think there’s just too much evidence. We’ll talk about this on Nation Radio today, but their collective NHLE’s are very close. Something in the “saw him good” category has tipped the scales.

      I honestly don’t know what it is, but the scouts seem to have identified it and agreed it’s elite. Probably something vague like “vision” lol.

  • Nugent-Hopkins is 1st on my list.

    After watching him play a bunch, I’m comfortable with his size being the only knock on him.

    In 10 years it would be ridiculous to have passed on an elite player because he was 15 lbs lighter than you’d prefer for an 18 year old.

    It’s easier to gain weight than getting better at any on ice deficiency. Rushing him to the NHL next year would be a mistake, and so would going forward with RNH and Sam Gagner as #1 and #2 Centers.

    • Oilfan14

      It’s not his size that’s the issue, the magnificent bastard has stated that it’s his strength which will come with time.

      I hope they send him back to junior so he can play at the world junior tournament in Edmonton. I have tickets!!!!!!!! Also it will allow the Oilers to spread out their ELC.