2014-15 Goals Projection: No. 1 centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins


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.

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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).

Goal-Scoring Curve

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Nugent-Hopkins’ shot rates at even-strength and on the power play over this three-year NHL career (via ExtraSkater.com) are as follow:

Age % of Peak EV Shots/60 PP Shots/60
18 80.0% 7.0 8.0
19 83.3% 5.8 8.1
20 86.7% 5.8 10.7
Projected 90.0% 6.7 9.6

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:

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Line Wing Centre Wing Total
Oilers No. 1 28 21 31 80
Avg. Playoff No. 1 30 27 22 79

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.


  • Young Oil

    If he works on his shot this offseason, coupled with the continued healing of his shoulder, I don’t think 25-30 goals is out of the realm of possibility. It seemed like his shoulder was really affecting his shot last year, he put the puck high or wide much more often than in previous seasons IMO.

    Let’s say he missed the net on a good opportunity about once a game last year, or 80 times. If he finds a way to put 10% of those in the net, that’s an extra 8 goals, which would have put him at 27 goals last season. That’s my prediction for this year.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Good stuff, JW.

    Hall has averaged roughly two assists for every goal he’s scored in the last two years. It was about 1:1 in the first two years, but his game has changed.

    Eberle has been about 4:3 (A/G) his whole career.

    RNH is about the same as Hall (2:1) if you exclude the poor season he had in 2012-13, assuming due to the shoulder injury.

    So we should expect:
    Hall: 28 G, 56 A, 84 P
    Eberle: 31 G, 41 A, 72 P
    RNH: 21 G, 42 A, 63 P

    That’s 80 goals and 139 assists. Considering the NHL averages roughly 1.7 assist for every goal scored nowadays, that’s right on par.

    Using these predictions, we can expect career years for Hall and RNH. And I’m kinda hoping RNH can surpass that point mark.

    • TeddyTurnbuckle

      Past projections look about right, but I anticipate with the new coaching assistants the team will, finally start putting some priority on defensive zone coverage instead of floating out waiting for quick passes lout. That is likely to impinge on “offence-only” scoring numbers so I anticipate the whole top line to be down about 1/4 to 1/3 from your projections, while the team as a whole improves significantly…

  • Spoils

    So, I tend to think Nuge will see disproportionate improvement with age, and he is still only 21.

    I also think he’ll be a late bloomer…

    And I like Kool-Aid 😉

  • Jayz

    Coat RNH Hall, and Ebs skeletons in that metal that they used on wolverine, adamantite I believe. Really wish we had Lucic or Ben. Gazdic better be very intimidating on the bench this year, do not need those boys getting crushed and hurt. RNH breaks 30 goal mark if healthy all year. Book it.

  • Britts94

    I’m not too worried or even interested in how many goals or points anyone gets. I’m just wondering if they’ll be able to actually win hockey games for once. Hopefully the boys have that same attitude.

  • Britts94

    Baby nuge is now a man.. A young man but a now healthy young man. He is a genius with the puck and I am expecting huge things from him this year. If he can make a leap that whole line will follow and dominate… Then the world!!

  • Serious Gord

    With the departure of gagner the four most experienced topline players aquired since the cup run are hall ebs RNH and Shultz.

    Of the four the widest potential plus or minus change in performance this year compared to last would seem to be RNH.

    Better health, more strength, a tougher attitude and maybe he takes the mental/vision he has for the game to a truly top of the league level. With some decent partners and he could have a memorable season.

    But he really didn’t impress me last year even after he got healthy. Has the rest of the league figured out how limit his offense? He got some points to be sure, but he didn’t turn defenders inside out very often. Also though he showed some signs of anger/aggression, some real chippyness or stick would go a very long way. Just not sure he has it in him and if he doesn’t we could see injuries and scoring/assist droughts.

    And I have no opinion which way this season will go for him.

    • Joy S. Lee

      He takes a ton of vicious crap from opponents. He was just finally figuring out that it was time to start giving some of it back. In other words, it isn’t his natural mentality, but he is learning that it is a necessary component to compete in this particular men’s league.

    • Rdubb

      you must remember gord that the Oiler defense sucked so bad lasts season, and RNH spent most of his time defending instead of going for offence…
      in my opinion RNH really impressed me by his learning ability to defend the leagues best, because that is who he usually played against, and if you were to go back and look at all the goals scored while he was on the ice, my guess is (without having the ability to go back and look myself) that there would be a fairly good percentage that were goals totally unrelated to his play. What I mean by this is that for example, on the PP, Yak playing @ the blue line and giving the puck, opposition goes down and scores. An easy wrist shot from the point that finds in way through either Labarbera or Dubynk (this one surprised me since I thought he was making strides to be the #1), or on the breakout, the defender flubbed the pass or just put it on the defenders stick and then, GOAL…or the final one, the opposition is making an odd man rush (or any rush for that matter) and someone makes a dumb ass line change and before RNH can even take 3 or 4 strides, into the goal…
      I know that these things to a great number of players, but not as often as it did on the Oilers, and one must remember we had the 4th and 5th worst NHL +/-…
      just a something to think about…
      Finally,remember, RNH never had to defend in Red Deer, he was all offense. So, I think his ability to learn so quickly and do such a good job at it against the best of each team is really good and that alone should impress…

  • billythebullet

    RNH, has to find the key and park himself in
    Gretzky’s office behind the net, feeding passes to Hall and Eberle. For his size he is fairly strong on the puck as well, because he gets the puck before someone leans on him.

    HIs game is on the cycle.

    • Joy S. Lee

      I think I agree with you on this, that his game is on the cycle, and that like Gretzky, with his great edge-work, he could use the net as a tool. Less time and space these days, so its not as easy to do as it was for Gretzky (who also had a better knack for knowing where the puck was going), but the kid is smart, he should be able to figure it out and use it to some advantage. Especially with his size issues, he needs all the advantages he can get.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    If RNH can spend this long off-season working on his shot and strength, he will be closer to 100 points …….IMHO.

    If the new coach CR can figure out where to play him on the PP and adjust his minutes this is totally achievable. Eakins used him on the right-half wall with his useless PP set up……he instead should be used as a roamer, maybe behind the net, to the left wall, move to the point? Our static PP was not helping RNH’s point totals last year. The kid has creativity and vision but this was under utilized 5 on 5 and especially the PP.

    Also he was heavily over used at the start of the season, and was gassed by mid-season. If CR can control the moronic Eakins, RNH will shine this year!

  • Serious Gord

    In regards to RNH’s strength, I can confidently say he looks pretty big as of right now. I saw him roughly 3 weeks ago in Vancouver at the nightclub I work at on the weekends. I’m 5’11 and 195lbs and I’m a very fit individual who goes to the gym 5x a week. I kid you not, he looks far bigger than myself. If he isn’t pushing 200lbs by this coming season I will be extremely suprised.

    The big thing for players of the oilers’ cores’ age is that progression must be made every year in both strength and skill. In Nuges’ case his increase in size will help him greatly in the defensive zone to battle as well as in the corners. The next step for him IMO is to improve his shot accuracy, mentioned by other individuals on this post. Like others have stated, hopefully another year off of his shoulder surgery will help. If his shot accuracy improves I think he needs to be a little more selfish. With his slick hands he beats players more than hall and eberle do but elects to pass directly after opposed to finishing some plays on his own. I’m not saying he should do this all the time but only when the time is present, as it has at times in the past.

    I think a year of our top line together all year will mean huge point totals for them that couldn’t be measures using math. It will also mean AT LEAST another handful of wins for our oilers.