The young center pursued the puck carrier and disrupted the breakout, as the Flames power play clock ticked down. One sortie after another was disrupted, as Baby Nuge singlehandedly impacted tonight’s game in a positive way. As I was watching 93 on the penalty-kill,  I was reminded of the great Dave Keon, who 40 years earlier played the same game—tireless puck pursuit and using speed to upset timing—and at 20, he possesses something the other kids cannot claim—a natural ability to think the defensive game.


Leading up to the 2011 Entry draft, many respected hockey people discussed the Nuge as a hockey player. My favorite—and the one thing that rings most true today—comes from 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.”


Nuge, at 20, is doing good work for the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s a rundown of his game tonight:

  • Corsi For % 5×5: 54.2%, led the team
  • DZone start: 28.6%, Gordon toughest among C’s
  • Percentage of team EV ice-time: 30.9%, a close second to Gagner
  • Percentage of team PP ice-time: 48.9%, again a close second to Gagner
  • Percentage of team PK ice-time: 53.8%, second to Gordon

There’s some interesting stuff in here. First, his shot differential was outstanding—this is a road game and the numbers didn’t favor the Oilers overall (44-34 Calgary 5×5 on the night). He was playing on the 1line, but he was also doing some double time on the PK, which meant his regular wingers (Hall and Perron) were getting some 5×5 prime with (to my eye) Sam Gagner. (all numbers via extra skater).


ALL of the gifted kids can play offense, but Nuge can do that AND play some defense. As coach Dallas Eakins continues to experiment with this roster and find a sweet spot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins role is becoming more Datsyukian—at age 20!

Tonight, when Dallas Eakins needed a partner for Boyd Gordon because Ryan Smyth is too old to do double-time, he looked down the roster and chose the youngest option available. And that young man killed penalties with aplomb, at the expense of his PP and EV playing time (which was passed along to Sam Gagner).

A small point of interest: Pavel Datsyuk arrived in the NHL at 23, so we began to form an opinion of him as a player FIVE years after we began doing the same thing with Nugent-Hopkins. He’s just getting started. 

This kid is so far ahead of the curve it’s frightening. A lot of the Oiler kids are pissing in the wind without the puck, but baby Nuge—the man who may never shave—is bona fide and taking on more responsibility by the month.

  • Spaz

    I saw a title including Ambulance, a picture of Nuge and immediately thought he was hurt. I even watched him close out the game but derp PANIC for a second there.

  • Retsinnab5

    Even in my lowest moments as an Oilers fan, I never once thought of harming ” little baby Nuge”. IMHO he is the only untouchable. I think he should be on a steady diet of steak and testosterone. Putting on 20lbs of pure awesomeness, wrapped in a layer of agitation, would bring a dynamic to little Nuge’s game that very few possess today. Elite skill and vision, supplemented with a junkyard dog mentality.

    I can only dream that baby Nuge becomes “the kid that everyone hates to play against.” Due to his skill level, and his ability to punish the other teams best players.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Hi ON, missed the game tonight – was it:
    1) close as the shots suggest;
    2) entertaining;
    3) what up with J. Schultz’s 29 min;
    4) what up with Yak’s 6?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    what was written here about The Nuge is why he’s too valuable to the Oilers to be considered in a trade for a #1 d-man. we also have depth issues at center here and in the system and if we trade him, we’d have Gagner and nobody! i’d be OK with trading anyone on the team except Nuge and Hall.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock


    How do you decide what articles you put up between here and your site?

    Do you ever write one you designated for this site and decide last minute that it’s too cherry and think ‘maybe I’ll keep this one for myself’ and just write up something quick and generic for ON?

    • Lowetide

      For ON, I try to write articles that have a lot of different ranges. This site has so many talented writers that I don’t feel a specific need to write on the current team unless there’s a reason (as in this item).

      My writing for ON is a little more formal, I can piece five ideas together for my blog and call it a post and wouldn’t do that here.

      As for saving or thinking it’s too cherry, no. 🙂 I can say that in my life one of the things I’m most proud of is getting a writing gig, and thank Wanye for that opportunity.

      And then I’m also proud to write with this group of talented people. I get a lot of “you write on the same site as Brownlee” or “Wanye’s stories are the best” or “Willis has changed my mind” and get more comments on Gregor’s Dad piece each year than anything that appears on the Oilogosphere.

      So, long answer, but bottom line is that I value writing for ON so try to make the stories varied and interesting.

  • CMG30

    The Nuge is one of the reasons the OIl were right to try to build through the draft. As difficult as it seems to be to trade for a top defenseman, it would be just this side of impossible to trade for a player like that in his prime.

  • TayLordBalls

    Most interesting!

    Perhaps it’s the young players maturing or the coach’s words being embraced.

    Either way, the Oilers have changed and turned the corner.

    • Rdubb

      When DID the Oilers “change the corner”?
      They are on a two game winning streak after losing 6 in a row…what changed?
      In my humble opinion, the change happened when that fan tossed his #83 jersey onto the ice. We all know that the crest is a sacred thing, as it is in the dressing room since NOBODY is allowed to stand on or walk the crest…This PISSED off the Oilers coach, & hopefully fired up the Oiler players too, & if it didn’t, we DON’T NEED THEM! We, the fans, consider the Oiler emblem to be a very sacred thing (@ least a very large chunk of us do, and many who read on this site do), and if the players and staff don’t feel as proud of that jersey as we do, there is something wrong since it should be them who consider the jersey more sacred than we do!!!

      • TayLordBalls

        true the Oil have lost to top 10 teams in the last 20 games, but have beaten most of the less than top ten teams.

        exactly how many fans does it take to make a ‘chunk’?

  • Baby Nuge is so stealth in how he handles the d side of things. His skating is remarkably fluid and that edge work is simply ridiculous allowing him to shadow/mirror his check.

    “the glove II”

    He is still really frail for an NHL player, provided he survives the battles in anticipation of his physical maturity… good lord.. what a tool kit.

      • Rick Stroppel

        ha ha so predictable.

        i was joking….easy to get a rise out of people…..everyones on edge with the oilers this uear

        but you can always make the argument you get the best defenceman in the league for a smallish center who it at most top 15

        and even with your logic / your argument, we address our 1st weakness then we can work on our 2nd weakness…..although goalie might be 2nd

        we as oiler fans tend to fall in love with our guy and put less value on other guys

  • Rdubb

    Good article, but, why aren’t any of the other youngsters following suit trying to play defense first, offense second?
    Do these young guys not realize that defence wins you hockey games, and goal scoring is all for show? If you have solid defense, the offense will come naturally, ask any of the great teams of the past decade plus. Look @ DET for one, all the great offensive talent, but they a SOUND defensive style, & when the opportunity presents itself, they BURRY the puck!!!
    Or, are young guys to stubborn? Do they not care about playing defense? Do they not realize that it is the most important part of the game?
    Another question; why can’t Eakins control J.Schultz? The kid spends way more time playing up with the forwards than he does on D, perhaps they should consider putting him on the wing? He jumps up on 90% (just a guess, but I’d really like to know the exact percentage) of the plays, & most of the time, he shouldn’t be. He’s jumping up when there is no call or reason to be, than is so far behind coming back on the back check that it is easy for a skilled team to get a scoring chance. The kid MUST stay back more & LEARN TO PLAY DEFENSE!!!
    @ least these are my feelings…
    PS – untouchable players are; Hall, RNH, Eberle, Nurse, & now Peron (he has a very contract for a few yrs yet and plays the game that we need in Edm, to bad he wasn’t 2″ taller and about 25lbs heavier)


    • It sounds much simpler than it really is. Eakins made a great point just before the season with regards to getting the kids to play defense.

      He said it’s a lot like a parent getting their kids to clean their room and do their laundry regularly. You tell them to do it, and they listen, but then the next week the room is messy again and laundry is everywhere. You have to keep on them forever, because the moment you think they’ve started to do it with regularity they will revert back to their old habits. It’s never ending, and it always will be.

      • Rick Stroppel

        This is a completely false analogy. These are grown men. They are being paid MILLIONS of dollars to play this game. They need to play both ends of the rink. EVERY TEAM IN THE LEAGUE EXCEPT THE OILERS SEEMS TO HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT. That is one of the reasons that were in second last place. As long as the coaches feed us this “it is what it is” B.S., as long as fans accept it, the team will continue to fail.

    • D-Unit

      So agree with your post.

      I believe Schultz issues started before he came to Edmonton, there has to be a reason he is here and not with the Ducks. I really don’t care much for his game.

      As far as the other kids, Eakins has a big task in front of him on the defence front. Nuge learned it in the WHL. As far as the other kids, I believe the previous coaches didn’t do enough to develop that end of their games. Regardless of talent, it’s 2013 and the way the NHL is now, defence does win hockey games. I believe Eakins knows this (see his work in progress on teaching Yak), don’t think Kruger did, and Renney should have. Lowe had his Glory in different times, and I don’t think he knows much about the game, and most days I am not sure that Tambo knew what hockey was.

      I don’t see Crazy Eyes as an untouchable though.

  • geoilersgist

    I was at the game last night and Nuge looked good all game. The first two periods seemed so slow but the 3rd was good. Hemsky and Hall were flying all night.

    But man oh man, baby nuge is a real treat to watch at both ends of the rink.

  • The Nuge was defensively trained by Brent Sutter in Red Deer.

    He was sound defensively long before he arrived in Edmonton……..with a little physical maturation this kid will be better that Pavel Datsyuk!!

    LT nailed it on the Nuge…….both Hall, and the Nuge should be considered untouchables in my books. I’m a little ambivalent on Eberle, until he stops using that toe-drag move and learns how to one-time a puck, he will not get the nod from the great Rama Lama!

    Sorry for the George Costanza moment!

  • Oilers4ever

    How does canada lose 5-4 to the czechs today? If moroz is canadian they could have used him. Canadian brain trust omitted some players that should be there and its going to bite them in the ass. No medal this year. Oilers win 4-2.

  • Rdubb

    Nuge and Hall are playing the defensive side of the puck quite well. Certainly better than they have before.

    A question which arises is that in the draft comments about Yakupov they say “when he gets in th open he buries his chances”. IIRC I haven’t seen Yakupov have a breakaway ever. If he is a swft skater with scoring talent, why not?

    Would welcome your thoughts.