Ambulance Blues

The discussion of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the potential number one overall pick points out the flaws in evaluating junior age kids through math: we just don’t have enough information.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this year’s top prospects with many well known hockey people. ALL of them suggest Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a cerebral player with exceptional on-ice vision and quickness. Robin Brownlee’s excellent ongoing series here at ON seems to be leading us to the conclusion that RNH is the man and most Oiler fans would be surprised at this point if he’s not taken #1 overall. 

Among those who don’t feel he should go first overall the argument (in general terms) comes down to:

  • RNH does not appear to have as "wide a range" of skills as someone like Sean Couturier.
  • The way he’s scoring his points (mostly on PP) suggests he won’t be an impact player at Evens.
  • His goals/assist rates are drastic enough for us to question his ability to be both a goal scorer and playmaker.

Cam Moon joined me for Nation Radio yesterday and I asked him several questions in regard to RNH. I’ve been very interested in his opinion because there’s a disconnect between the known math and reality (an example of reality: Bob McKenzie says 6 of 10 NHL scouts have Nugent-Hopkins #1) which usually means we’re missing part of the equation.

  • 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.
  • Moon on the powerplay time on ice: According to the RDR PBP man the kid was on the #1PP all season long and shouldn’t be punished for results. While true, I think it’s important to estimate his PP TOI in reasonable terms. There were only three NHL forwards with more than 5 minutes per game this past season (Crosby, Malkin, Brad Richards) but let’s use that as the marker. 5 minutes per game on the PP. That would give RNH 345 minutes on the powerplay this past season, and put his 69gp, 11-47-58 numbers into 10.08 points-per-60 minutes. Even if we stretch the number to 8 minutes a night on the PP (Red Deer enjoyed 360 powerplays all year long, so 8 minutes a night would have RNH playing about 70% of the overall PP minutes–very unlikely) his points-per-60 number would be 6.30 points-per-60 on the powerplay.
  • 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.
  • What’s the EV/60 number: Well, the NHL leaders at even strength time on ice had 17+ minutes per game (there were three: Kovalchuk, Getzlaf, Perry) so let’s use that as our outer marker. That puts Nugent-Hopkins estimate at 1173 minutes, so his even-strength-per-60 number would be 2.46/60 (69gp, 20-28-48).
  • What does it all mean? Well, if we use the same time-on-ice estimate for Taylor Hall (I believe Windsor rolled 4 lines too) we’d get the following: PP (57gp, 14-32-46) 9.68 which is in the range with RNH’s 10.08. Hall at EV: (57gp, 22-33-55) assuming 17 minutes puts him at 3.41–well clear of RNH’s 2.46/60.

What it really mean?

As much as we want math to help us project these kids, we don’t have enough math to make a reasonable equation. We’re left with the words of hockey men:

  • 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."

I’m very interested in Robin Brownlee’s ongoing series and what Stu MacGregor told him. I believe MBS and the Oilers have decided RNH is the man, and although it would be nice to follow them to that conclusion we simply don’t have the available information. We need time on ice, not just for RNH but for years previous in order to compare.

Without it, in the words of Neil Young, we’re all just pissing in the wind.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    A little busier than usual on a Sunday afternoon. Have all you bastages power raked your lawns yet, get out there and get it done, the game starts at 6 o’clock eh.

  • Lowetide

    @sox and oil…my point was you can use math to show whatever you want.I am not against SC at all.I just thought it was unfair that everyone was chopping up RNH numbers and SC seemed to be getting a free pass numbers wise.
    A lot tougher draft this year,could be a career defining moment or career ending moment for a lot of scouting teams/GM’s,not just in Edmonton.

  • Lowetide

    When I built my new home 18 months ago I landscaped the yard to be maintenance free.I traded mower and weedwhacker to my neighbor for 2 cases of beer.I will mow no more.

  • Lowetide

    LT…is there a rule in the draft that would prevent an off-the-wall-happening like …can the Oilers trade the #1 pick to Boston for their #9 AND a player? namely Tyler Sequin…? so they can torture themselves over whether RNH is their guy or not…

    …we then package some of our players (Hemsky Brule JFJ) and the #9 and go after the best pick available (maybe SC is still there @ 9…
    does that work at all or is that tootoo (not Jordin) out there?

    @jbh …years ago my buddy next door took the top six inches off his front yard and put in washed rock and called it his stonelawn…now that was maintenance free!

    • Lowetide

      I’ve read this a few places, but can’t really understand why Boston would deal Seguin. He’d be the best player in this draft, so dealing him would seem to be a backwards step.

      • Lowetide

        …How so if RNH is touted all over the Universe as THEE Number One!…Sequin was never #1 (like you need me to tell you that ) and i’m guessing here but with Marc Savard out and out they really didn’t use Sequin much regular season-wise and only because Bergeron is concussed will he draw in in the playoffs …it’s not a carrot dangle to Boston at all?… your point is well taken,jus sayin’.

        • I agree with LT here, remember that Seguin was ranked #1 by CSS last year AHEAD of Hall, I think it’s EASY to say Seguin would be the best player in this years draft and I would trade the #1 for him anyday

      • Crash

        That’s a pretty bold statement…please enlighten me as to how you “KNOW” Seguin would be the best player in this draft? Was Bob Stauffer not quoting any of the good scouts when he mentioned that a majority of the ones he talked to said RNH was better than Seguin?

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    A couple points:

    1. People saying once RNH gains wait he will become unbalanced and lose his quickness.
    He is an elite athlete who skates all year round so I dont see him waking up one day putting ont he skates and going what the hell I cant move skate anymore.

    2. There is no number 1 pick this year. Ya there is and its Nugent-Hopkins some just dont want to take him and thats fine but he is the best player in this draft.

    3. I am on the RNH bandwagon and I think it would be a mistake not to draft him I think Strome is someone who I would try and trade up to get. I think he is getting overlooked big time.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    I don’t know LT. For the Gagner comparison. RNH seems to project as a taller and bigger center. He has a better toolkit as far as skating is concerned. Both players have strong stickhandling, vision, and playmaking abilities.

    So RNH looks like a bigger, stronger, faster Gagner. That actually sounds like a pretty awesome player.

  • Lowetide

    How bout the Oilers draft RNH first, trade Gagner and LAs pick for 4th, then draft Strome..
    With both RNH and Strome the Oilers debth down the middle should be solidified for years to come..if Strome isnt available then draft Couturier..or Huberdeau..

    • B.D.G.

      …i dunno buscuits but i’m thinking it’s gonna take a ton more than #19 pick and our 2 maybe 3C to get a fourth overall…throw in Hemsky, our GM… and his son… maybe that get us 4th …

    • Brokenlathe

      I think this would be the best thing for the Oilers, I think even if McNeil is there at LAs pick you take him, get some depth at center and worry about drafting D next year (Very strong draft with lots od D prospects).

  • Lowetide

    My fear is that the Oilers become a team of talented wingers without a center piece. And Id love to see a talent like RNH click with one of the other kids giving the Oilers a dynamic centre-winger pair that’s a threat to score every shift and soooo much fun to watch.

  • Is Larsson the safe pick though, really? He’s a guaranteed Joni Pitkanen, is that really so great? And he’s already had a groin injury in his young career, is that safe?
    I’m thinking that this draft will go down as either one of the best of all times, with all these 106 pt players in the top 5, or extremely mediocre, if the scouts are correct, because there is very little separation in the top 5. All have 106 pts or equivalent (Same as Taylor Hall), although most of those points seem to be assists, except with Couturier.
    If you ask me, the safe pick is Couturier, as he put up those points 2 years in a row. None of the other kids did that.
    I’d take Couturier.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There’s not much difference between Victor Hedman and Adam Larsson. I say we sit tight and take a run at Hedman after the Lightning try and hold onto their top end talent Lecavalier,St.Louis,Malone,Stamkos etc. The Lightning could have significant cap issues by this time next year. To be able to grab a Victor Hedman 5 yrs into his career could be great timing.Maybe he blossoms in an Oiler jersey.

    Didn’t they say 4 yrs ago Hedman was going to be better or every bit as good as Lidstrom as well?

    Screw Larsson, grab centers and see what can be done on the Weber,Yandle,Bogosian,Gudbranson or other more NHL ready defenceman front.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Why do I think RNH played less than Froese at evens?

    I didn’t time it, but I’m certain that’s what we saw vs the Oil Kings.

    I see no way RNH played more than 15 min per night at evens, and he’s likely down around 14 mins.

    On the power play, though, he might well have played 60 to 70 per cent of the time. He was on the point, didn’t need to skate so much, and stayed out long.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    As a diehard fan of the OIL I would be disappointed if we didnt take the best player available and at this point that seems to be RNH.If they took Couturies first I and many other fans would question why they took the guy that slipped from 1st to 5th or 6th.I fancy myself as a knowlegable hockey fan but I sure as hell dont get paid to evaluate future N.H.L pros.Im not saying RNH is the next Joe Sakic or Stevie Y but those guys were not a heck of alot bigger at 17 or 18 years old.We sure need help on the backend and I hope it comes soon.One defenceman i would love to see the Oil make a trade for is Ryan Ellis from the Preds but that would raise some feathers cause he is not 7feet tall lol.Anyhow I hope it all works out.Go Preds or whoever is playing the Canucks.

  • I’m a Seguin guy but think RNH will be a better player.

    The thought of RNH feeding Seguin one timers would have fixed the Oilers PP quick, oh well.

    Nugent-Hopkins is the best player in the draft but taking him also creates a ton of work for Tambellini.

    – I have zero faith in his ability to move #19 into the top 10.

    – Are they prepared to trade Gagner this year or sooner?

    – Is Tambellini’s job secure enough to take Nugent-Hopkins and keep him in WHL another year?

    I want Nugent-Hopkins but Adam Larsson is the safe pick for Edmonton’s GM to make.

    • 1) I share your same lack of faith about trading up
      2) I sincerely doubt they are ready to trade away Gagner, not until they have better options
      3) Somehow they let Tambi keep is job despite making the team worse in every way, so you have to think that hes sticking around. I mean, its nice that they appear to have a plan now, but when he was hired Im sure the goal wasnt to ice the worst team in the league. He just fell into the chance to rebuild the organization out of pure incompetency. Its as if Mr Bean is running the Oilers.

    • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

      Safer in what way? On-ice? PR fallout?

      From a PR standpoint, I would suggest that RNH is a far “safer” pick than anyone else.

      (1) He’s seemingly ranked the highest, so if he doesn’t turn out as hoped they can always say “We weren’t the only ones who had him ranked so high.”

      (2) He’s local, so fans already have a bit of an affinity for him and it seems like the average Oilers fan is pulling for RNH at this point, from what I read.

      (3) If you take someone else, and he turns out to be the best player, great. If you take someone else, and the guy 200 km down the road turns into the best player, you wear more egg on your face than if you take RNH and Couturier, or Larsson, or Landeskog, etc, turn out to be the best player. IMO.

  • Oilfan14

    The Oil could pick RNH with the first pick, trade LA’s pick (19th), our 2nd round (31st)’ and a roster player (Gagner) for the 2nd overall. Then they could take Larsson. I love Gags but you have to give up something to get something. If Larsson is as good as they say then it would be worth the price.

  • Dominoiler

    I would like echo staples.. I read last month that Nuge was getting 2nd line minutes this season, therefore, the even per 60 number would be better than LT estimated.. which brings RNH numbers closer to the Hall baseline..

    Havent been a nuge supporter thus far (pushing Larsson) but am starting to accept the conclusions of LT et al.. with that said, NFW Nuge plays in the NHL at the beginning of next season.. back to juniors, son..

  • paul wodehouse

    …but but but ~S~K~

    this website is titled HTML …
    for the Conceptually Challenged!!!

    no one has ever successfully mocked me like that in the history of each one of my challenges…

    …may wistful fortunes of Leader Wanyes’ ancestors rain down upon you from the very spot high atop the mountain where he was conceived…