The Case for the Nuge

In the short and impressive history of the Edmonton Oilers, there have been precious few rookies who have reached 50 points in a season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is one of them.

With his point last night, The Nuge reached the 50 point plateau in his debut season. It’s a rare item. How rare? Consider the number of 50 point rookies in Oiler history:

  1. Jari Kurri (80-81) 75gp, 32-43-75
  2. Jason Arnott (93-94) 78gp, 33-35-68
  3. Dave Lumley (79-80) 80gp, 20-38-58
  4. Glenn Anderson (80-81) 58gp, 30-23-53
  5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11-12) 58, 18-32-50

That’s it, that’s all. Not Hall, not Eberle, not Gagner not Rob Schremp. How rare is it on a league wide basis? Pretty rare. Two or three most seasons in the last decade or so, with the Evgeni Malkin 85-point spike and the Ovechkin/Crosby debut being the real eye poppers since the lockout.

RNH managed the feat in fewer than 60 games and in a (somewhat) dead ball era. And he did it at age 18. There are so many up arrows on the Nuge the mind boggles.


Well some members of the MSM have suggested that Gabriel Landeskog is ahead on boxcars, and he certainly looks good when you read them and his eyepopping plus minus. However, it’s important to look at what these kids are facing and the kinds of results each player has delivered. 

There seems to be a gathering impression that Landeskog is facing the toughest opposition and that the Nuge is getting his points on the PP and againnst the soft parade at evens. Is that true?


The boxcars

  • Gabriel Landeskog 80, 22-29-51 +23
  • RNH 58, 18-32-50 -3

The two items in Landeskog’s favor are +23 and the fact that he’s one point ahead of the Nuge overall. RNH’s advantages are the points-per-game ratio and the fact he’s doing it on an inferior hockey team. Although the two teams have scored about the same number of goals, the Avs are 160-159 GF-GA at evens and the Oilers are 149-172 in those situations. Basically, both players are performing better plus minus than an average player would on their respective teams.

Landeskog’s expected plus minus would be even, so his +23 is a monster positive. For Nugent-Hopkins, an expected plus minus on his team would be about -5, so he’s a little better than average based on some quick calculations.

Advantage Landeskog, but I think it’s pretty clear both are exceptional young players. RNH would have an expected point total of about 69 if he’d stayed healthy and at that point it’s probably game over and Burnaby Ryan wins the day.




Well, they also paint a picture. First though, we have to agree that comparing players from two different teams is unwise, except to say things like "this player faced the second toughest available opponent for his team" and vice versa. Direct comparison or just listing the result makes the water muddy. Agreed?

  • RNH 5×5 ZONE START: Easiest available. 62.2%ZS, end at 54.1%
  • RNH 5×5 QUAL COMP: 2nd line, 5th overall among Oiler F’s. It isn’t the soft parade
  • RNH 5×5 CORSI REL: 4.1, 5th among Oiler F’s
  • RNH 5X5/60: 2.02, 4th among Oiler F’s
  • RNH 5X4/60: 7.79, league’s best number among F’s who play 2 mins or more
  • Landeskog 5×5 ZONE START: 5th easiest available. 54.1%ZS, end at 51.5%
  • Landeskog 5×5 QUAL COMP: 1st line, toughest available. Extremely unusual for a rookie
  • Landeskog 5×5 CORSI REL: 14.3, best among Avalanche forwards
  • Landeskog 5X5/60: 1.79, tied for 3rd among Avalanche forwards
  • Landeskog 5X4/60: 3.85, 6th among Avalanche forwards

Some great information here. Remember when scouts told us Landeskog was more "NHL ready" than the rest of the 2011 draft group? Well, that was an understatement. The young man is facing tough opponents and delivering a wonderful CorsiRel, meaning he’s already impacting things in a positive way. If he never gets better than he is today, Landeskog will be a wonderful player.

RNH’s numbers are different and yet no less spectacular. Consider the fact that as a rookie he has posted a wild, beyond comprehension powerplay number. The Oilers might have been wise to use him more this season (RNH spends 3:05 a night on the PP, about as much as Shawn Horcoff) if they were serious about winning hockey games.

Beyond that, he’s also delivering nice offense (better than Landeskog) at even strength. Now, he’s facing softer opposition, but then again it’s the second toughest available (2line opponents would still be veteran men who can impact the game). Good lord these are terrific hockey players.



Landeskog. His underlying numbers are strong too, and the fact that he’s scored 51 points facing NHL best opponents is just this side of impossible.

Nugent-Hopkins. He’s done more to impact the game’s most difficult discipline (goals for) than any other rookie, and the PP number alone is insane.

Who wins the Calder? Both are worthy. I would choose the Nuge.



It’s a "best of" Nation Radio today, as we have hand picked interviews over these last months that are worth repeating. Among our guests are:

  • Former Oiler Sean Brown, who talks about his NHL career, injuries and their impact, and what he’s doing these days.
  • Todd Nelson, coach of the OKC Barons made a January appearance and gave great insight into Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton and others.
  • Canucks Corner’s Tom Benjamin was fascinating in discussing Mark Howe, the impact of fighting on the game and what to do about the trap.
  • Skip Krake, former WHA Oiler and former Boston Bruin told us about Ace Bailey’s life, the WHA experience and original NHL expansion. A wonderful time.
  • Michael Spiedel and I talked about the draft and early moments of free agency during this July 3rd interview. Interesting to listen again and see how things worked out.
  • Jeff Krushell dropped by in late October and gave tremendous insight into player recovery. It’s a gem and he delivers all kinds of information that is relevant.

These are six of my favorite interviews over the last year, hope you tune in to hear them. Noon on Team 1260 Edmonton and the full show will be up on the Nation soon.

  • The Nuge needs another 3-4 point game to show the eastern media that he is huge. I think that it boils down to the Av’s are in the playoff hunt and the Oil are swimming. Landeskog contributions are being seen as more valuable, because there contributing to success. Gab’s contributions to his team are seen as more then points. Hes seen as a two way player, and even though he may score less, he gives up less and makes his team more successful.

  • justDOit

    RNH plays a more difficult position – he doesn’t just get to skate up and down the wing, yet he’s still producing points at a much higher ppg pace than Landeskog.

  • justDOit

    I’m generally with the group that likes Landeskog’s performance against top competition.

    But if Nuge had 69 points (and we’re being honest) Nuge would win in a landslide. So it can not be about per game stats, so it must be about the entire body of work in the season.

    Therefore Landeskog. They’ll both get monster second contracts so I’m not shedding tears that one loses the Calder bonus money.

  • 15w40

    Based on the analysis it would seem that Landeskog should win. Hasn’t been as sheltered and other than PP has been more successful. I suppose PPG is better for the Nuge as well. Close race – both good candidates. Nuge plays a tougher position as well. In the end my gut tells me the voters will be going with the Avs winger because he appears to be a more complete player as a rookie. RNH will likely surpass him in future years but it is the Rookie of the Year they are competing for right now.

  • Lowetide

    Two things swayed me toward the Nuge: he was able to maintain his impressive PP numbers and the qual comp got tougher as he went along (obviously teams became aware of him) at evens.

    But it’s a two winner race, that’s for sure.

  • O.C.

    Gretzky never won the Calder. It didn’t seem to hurt his career. Then again, maybe he woulda had 3500 pts if he won the Calder.

    Landy might win.
    Nuge might win.

    Life goes on.

  • yawto

    I also think that the nuge has a pretty impressive +/-. If you factor in the number of points that he gets on the pp, that leaves not many points to drive the +/- up outside of that. Usually top pp producers on a bad team have an atrocious +/- because outside of that they drown with the rest of the team. You also have to take into consideration that the nuge took a bottom feeding pp and vaulted it to a top 3 in the league. #nugeforcalder.

  • Chris.

    Nuge overcomes a shoulder injury, misses 1/4 of the season, and wins the rookie scoring race. He has a hand in transforming one of the leagues worst powerplays into one of the best. He is certainly worthy of the Calder. So too is Landy though. Hoping for Nuge, but expecting it to be Landy.

  • paul wodehouse

    a GREAT read LT!!!!!!!!…imo The Nuge wins on two counts …while playing what 20+ games less and having 50 points IN 58 GAMES is a killer stat…the kid turns a pathetic PP into the best in the league or close to it says tonnes …

    Landeskog is no surprise…second overall is unreal talent and he’s a monster size…Nuge needs some poundage if only to be heavier on his skates and so he doesn’t crash into the boards willy-nilly like that…for Randell Shermer …if memory serves i think there’s a hundred grand bonus dollars for the Nuge if he’s the Calder runner up …winner gets 200,000…paid by the League …i think

    loved the Sophia picture almost as delish as the Johansson woman


  • Milli

    Ladeskog (or however you spell it) wins. Not that I agree, of vourse I pick the Nuge! But simply on raw numbers he wins and because of Nuge’s games played. Regardless, how good is this kid gonna be!!!!

  • Milli

    Had RNH been with Avs and Landeskog with Oilers I would have gone for Landeskog for his extremely strong underlying numbers. Had RNH played all 82 games and scored above 60 points, then I wouldnt have had any problems siding with RNH. But gotta go with Landeskkog

  • Lexi

    Personally I am hoping Landeskog wins it, just so RNH will use it as motivation to punish Colorado 6 times a year for the next ten years.

    For as disgusting as last night’s game was, I loved how Noog competed. All he needs is 2 years and 15 more lbs and he will be a top 10 player in the league.

  • justDOit

    In the pursuit of consistency, the members of ON need to strike a committee to determine the official term of reference: is it RNH, Nuge, Noodge, Nooj, Noooooooooge!!!!, or Burnaby Ryan. This is urgent – I suggest immediate action.

    • Reg Dunlop

      The Nuge has been Terrible Ted Nugent ever since I first heard ‘Stranglehold’. I like Burnaby Ryan, any association with Sakic is a very good thing.

      Why would Henrique get so little love? He plays in the east[ a plus] has as many points an GL and RNH, plays the more difficult centre position for a playoff team… so what if he is older. Upset special, Adam for Calder.

  • oilredemption

    Landeskog wins it but nuge deserves credit for turning the leagues worst pp into one of the best and that should count for something. Basically we are comparing a quarterback to a tight end. Both are amazing in their own but only one can win and the +20 puts landy over the edge…. Although it breaks my heart cuz I have been rooting for the nuge all year.

    • bazmagoo

      I agree, think that plus minus is going to win it for Landeskog. Unfortunate, but true. Hopefully Nuge uses it as motivation to win the Art Ross within the next 5 years!

  • Lexi

    1 point behind. 2 games in hand. Nuge will end with the rookie points lead,

    But Landeskog will get the Calder because his contribution will be Avs ALMOST being in the playoffs (not gonna pass two of the Sharks, Coyotes, and Stars).

    Whereas Nuge’s contribution will be a mittful of points to hand the Habs the 2nd lottery pick.

  • Lexi

    I suspect Landeskog’s +/- will come back to earth a bit when his on ice sv% regresses from .932. It won’t be much, but JSG’s and Varlamov’s combine sv% is .917.
    At what point to ppl stop bring up his +/-? if he was +10 would people care? +15?

    I suspect it’ll be a pretty close race, but maybe not as close as it should be. Both excellent players.

    If you’re having the conversation of Seguin+Landeskog vs Hall+Nuge, either way the future is looking pretty bright.

  • db7db7db7

    I would suggest that the zone starts are way skewed. There is not as big a chance for a winger to make a defensive zone mistake compared to a center. The only reason RNH did not start as often as Land in the defensive zone,was his weak faceoff %. If Rnh was playing winger, they’d be pretty close I suspect. There has to be position consideration in my opinion when comparing these two.

  • Mason Storm

    I am pretty sure that Landeskog will win. He certainly deserves but had the Nuge been healthy we all know that this wouldn’t even be talked about right now. Alas, that’s not the way things happened.

  • Lowetide

    Bad management. Destroyed the kids confidence by putting him the Belanger triangle. What was left was taken once he started to perform well and they put him OKC a second time. Travesty