Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the best part of an undermanned Oilers’ centre depth chart, a two-way talent and brilliant power play man who should yet evolve into a legitimate No. 1 centre in the Western Conference. How many goals can he be expected to add next season?
For those interested in a brief explanation of this series, see the first post in it (on Taylor Hall). Just a reminder about two things: I’m not projecting breakout seasons here (though they happen) and “comparables” are just the players inhabiting roughly the same roster position on the eight Western Conference playoff teams, and that empty-net goals are not included.
Games & Usage
Nugent-Hopkins has missed 30 games to injury over the course of his NHL career, but none since coming back from offseason shoulder surgery. Since most of his time missed can be chalked up to shoulder problems that should now be solved, I’m going to project him to play 75 games next season instead of the 72 his career-to-date would suggest.
Nugent-Hopkins played more than 20:00 per game for the Oilers last season, but may end up getting even more this year because of the problems with the centre depth chart. I’m going to leave him with the same expected minutes on the power play (2.98 minutes per game) and on the penalty kill (1.23 minutes per game), but bump him slightly to match Hall in terms of even-strength usage (16.45 minutes per game).
Nugent-Hopkins’ shot rates at even-strength and on the power play over this three-year NHL career (via ExtraSkater.com) are as follow:
At even-strength, we’ve projected Nugent-Hopkins to play roughly 1,230 minutes next season. Using our estimated shots/hour rate, that works out to 138 shots. Nugent-Hopkins’ shooting rate in these situations isn’t bad (9.9 percent) but it’s also been dragged down by a 2-for-57 run in 2012-13 where he was clearly playing through injury. If we nix that segment, he jumps to 11.6 percent. I lean toward splitting the difference, which works out to 15 goals at even-strength.
On the power play, we’ve projected Nugent-Hopkins to play just over 220 minutes next season. Using our estimated shots/hour rate, that works out to 36 shots. He has shot at a 13.4 percent clip on 82 power play shots over his career; that’s barely any sample to draw conclusions from but again as it’s a slight bump from his career rate I’m okay with using it. That equates to 5 goals on the power play. Nugent-Hopkins managed seven shots while shorthanded last year and we’re pegging him to play roughly the same minutes; assuming he’s even a 9.9 percent shooter in that discipline we end up with 0.7 goals as an estimate; for our purposes we might as well round that up to a full 1 goal on the penalty kill.
Total: 21 goals. It’s worth remembering too that Nugent-Hopkins’ primary offensive value is going to be as a playmaker.
- Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf (29)
- Colorado: Matt Duchene (20)
- St. Louis: David Backes (24)
- San Jose: Joe Pavelski (41)
- Chicago: Jonathan Toews (28)
- Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar (28)
- Minnesota: Mikko Koivu (11)
Dallas: Tyler Seguin (36)
Average: 27 goals.
Our eight playoff teams averaged 27 goals from their most-used centres last season , which is six more than we’re projecting Nugent-Hopkins to score. In combination with Hall and Eberle, we can now compare the Oilers’ top line to that of our average Western playoff team:
Not bad at all. In terms of offence, the Oilers top line tracks nicely with the top lines of our eight Western playoff teams, because very few of those clubs have a Hall/Eberle duo on the wings.