I’m guessing the Edmonton Oilers could have finished 29th last season and lurched into 20-something-place in this lockout-shortened season handily without using two years of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ entry level contract, but RNH will play his 100th NHL game Saturday against the Calgary Flames.

Given potential cap issues and free agency rules, there’s reasonable arguments to be made that RNH, who just celebrated his 20th birthday April 12, should have spent last season and this one tearing it up in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels instead of playing at the back of the Western Conference pack with the Oilers – I beg to differ – but this isn’t about that.

This is about how time and 100 games has zipped by and how it looks from where I sit like the Oilers got it absolutely right with the first pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, despite having some other excellent options, as the Flames come calling to take another beating of monumental proportions at Rexall Place.

Wonky shoulder and all, RNH has been the class of the Class of 2011 – not bad for an under-sized centre who had some pundits questioning whether he was worthy of the No. 1 pick and whether chief scout Stu MacGregor and the Oilers should use it to select him.


With 99 NHL games on his resume, RNH faces the Flames with 21-53-74, easily out-stripping his fellow 2011 grads by the boxcars. Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, who claimed the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie last year, is next with 30-35-65 in 110 games.

Jonathan Huberdeau, who went third overall to the Florida Panthers and spent last season in junior, is having an excellent rookie campaign this season with 13-14-27 in 40 games. Defenseman Adam Larsson, taken fourth by the New Jersey Devils, has had a difficult sophomore campaign and sits with 2-21-23 through 94 NHL games.

Big pivot Sean Couturier out of Drummondville, deemed by some a good fit for the Oilers but who ended up dropping all the way to eighth and being taken by the Philadelphia Flyers, has recorded 16-23-39 in 115 games.

Boxcars – goals, assists and points — don’t nearly tell the whole story in providing a complete picture of progress by prospects, especially when it comes to defensemen like Larsson or Dougie Hamilton, taken ninth by the Boston Bruins. Still, in the case of a player like Nugent-Hopkins, whose calling card is producing points, it’s difficult to dismiss his dominance.


After tallying 18-34-52 in just 62 games with the Oilers last season (.84 PPG), Nugent-Hopkins has dropped off this season 3-19-22 in 37 games (.59 PPG) despite increased overall ice time – 18:55 this season to 17:36 in 2011-12.

Nugent-Hopkins has also had stretches, many of them, where he didn’t look quite right, playing too much of a tentative game on the perimeter. That’s led people to speculate about the shoulder he injured as a rookie. I suspect we’ll hear more about that when the season is done.

Despite the dip in overall production, RNH has looked more comfortable and has certainly been more effective and dynamic in the stretches when he’s been reunited with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

From a development point of view, I’d certainly rather see RNH struggling at times and having to adjust his game against NHL opponents than toying with WHL opposition for fun. There is something to be said, at least the way I see it, for developing alongside Hall and Eberle and Nail Yakupov, even in these lean times for the team. We’ve seen that work out fine before, no?

So, 100 games it is. Time flies.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

      • DSF

        Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that Rexall Drugs is in the middle of a re-branding changing their logo colour from orange and blue to turquoise.

        New renderings of the arena also feature turquoise as a primary colour.

        Wouldn’t be surprised if the Oilers get the same treatment when the the new arena opens.

        (if it ever does)

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Do you think Hopkins shoulder is 100%, or is there a lingering issue there that may warrant a closer look? Is he as healthy as can be expected after playing 65+ games this season?

    With a short offseason this year, they better unplug him soon if they want to explore some medical/surgical options.

  • hunkybill

    NUGE is good. Let him further develop and he will be very good. We need supporting cast. Base talent here is rare and amazing. Get to work management or bring in new GM to get it done.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    It’s not healthy for a grown ass man to like the Nuge as much as I do. The kid is humble, smart, and skilled. Oh and cute! My little Nugie is sooooo cute!

  • toprightcorner

    when Yzerman decided to become a bona fide superstar, he worked hard on his defence first with office being second. His offence struggled a a couple years but then it came back and he was a dominant two way player becoming one of the best all around center of all time.

    If I was the Oils mgmt I would tell him to work hard for a couple years on the defensive part of the game, he has the offensive talent so when he can put them both together he can be an allstar center for a long time. What he is doing, working hard on defence is perfect for him and he has improved a lot. A little more work and he will be one of the best all around players on the ice.

    Needs to work on the dot though. Hire Yanik
    Perreault for the summer to teach him how to succeed and improve t least to 47%

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Ideally, RNH would not be centering our top line right now. Alas, that’s not the situation the Oilers find themselves in. Regardless, Nuge has a bright future ahead of him. He is adjusting to a higher level of competition this season. The thing I like about him is that he understands he needs to take care of his end first and the offense will come. We need some depth down the middle but it’s nice to know that we at least have a legit #1 centre in the making.

  • geeker99

    can”t believe he is 20? i can believe he has a shoulder problems already though. our best line for 2 years now playing puck retrieval on a dump and chase team. kids trying to win puck battles against 220 pound d-men that time hits to hurt. no puck moving d-men and the injuries will pile up until we balance this line up. blah blah blah, broken record. so frustrating.

  • stretch14

    Kid has been invisible lately. He should be doing everything he can to pack on the pounds this summer. He has the same amount of goals this season as he did in one game last year vs. VAN on HNIC. Just sayin’….

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Watching the Oilers the past three years has been a nail biting experience, you just get nervous that one of the star kids is gonna get hit each time they come into contact with someone..and you know that nobody outside of Smid will step in and defend anyone..but I think we are heading out of the baby years and moving onto the toddler years now..toddlers can do some pretty amazing things.

  • stretch14

    Plus minus of Hopkins one of only a few of our forwards have on the plus side , along with the likes of Horcoff , Jones and Hall . Some of worst are Hartekainen ,Yakupov and Eberle . At least Hopkins a positive despite a tailing off on scoring so far, which might have changed more positively in a regular season of 82 games .

    On defence,and worst on the team by quite a bit, are the Schultz,s -with Justin being the worst on team .A bit alarming considering Nick is one of our thought to be best defenceman .Surprisingly Potter and Fistric on the plus side .

    Plus minus stats seem to show where our weaknesses really are this season ,and our youth is still questionable at this stage.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I think a year out it is pretty hard to come to any substantial conclusions on these players outside individual evaluation and player mgt.

    All the player you mention look like they have bright futures. Some may take longer to find their way, some may hit stumbling blocks on the way.

    I think we are a long way from declaring a clear standout. Especially considering D take so long to find their way. In 5 years a D from the 3rd round may put all these guys to shame.

    Those caveats aside, there is no way anyone at this point ought to be second guessing the RNH pick. His hockey sense is amazing and his puck mgt. is stellar. This year has seen his 2-way play blossom well ahead of expectations.

    Add to that, thus far we haven’t seen him get muscled off the puck as many expected. He’s fast, elusive and in control.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I wanted Huberdeau in that draft and I still think he would have been as good if not better choice. We’ll see over the next few years but Huberdeau’s compete level is supposed to be up there with Hall’s and I think that will allow him to pass RNH.

  • bumblebpete

    And at just 20 years old still the youngest number 1 center in the league where the average age of the number 1 centers is 27 years old. Shows how much more growth and experience Nuge has to gain to be in the same breath like guys like Getzlaf and Datsuyk. He is a stud but right now he is like a 2 year Stallion going up against the herd stallion who has 10 years experience and has been around the block more than twice.

  • Robin if the chips fall where they are right now and Florida and Colorado get the number 1-2 picks who do you see them taking?

    Florida has Huberdeau at center and Gudbranson on Defence. Is Seth Jones the guy? Or would Florida prefer McKinnon or someone like Barkov to play behind Huberdeau7

    Colorado I could see taking Jones in a heartbeat and or Droiun. They are strong up the middle with Duchene and Landeskog.

    The Oilers look destined to finish 23-25? Sean Monahan or if possible Lazar. Lazar would be a great winger. He has that compete we all talk about. Good size and speed and skill. I know he plays center but he would line up well with Gagner and Yakupov.