GDB -5.0: Nugent-Hopkins makes preseason debut

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NugeLee

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play his first preseason game tonight. He joined the Oilers on Tuesday after a five day break after playing six games at the World Cup. He feels stronger and quicker than last season and he’s looking forward to regaining the form he had in 2014 and 2015.

After back-to-back 56 points seasons, Nugent-Hopkins’ totals dipped to 34 last season. He only played 55 games due to injuries, but after a great first 13 games, RNH struggled mightily before breaking his hand in Florida on January 18th.

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He had five goals and 11 points in his first 13 games. He was playing great, but then Connor McDavid got injured and Taylor Hall moved to a line with Leon Draisait, and RNH only scored three goals in his next 33 games before being injured in Florida.

Then when he returned he scored twice in five games before suffering a concussion. It was a season to forget for Nugent-Hopkins, and he’s looking forward to being the impact player he was the two previous seasons.

He had a strong showing at the World Cup. He felt good and he believes he can be the same productive player he was early last season and in the two previous years.

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“When you start to get in a funk like that you lose a little confidence and it snowballs. When the team isn’t having success and you aren’t it is tough. I need to ensure I don’t get in that mindset again this year. I gained a lot of confidence at the World Cup and I’m feeling good and expecting to start the season like I did last year,” Nugent-Hopkins said.

Many expect McDavid to produce, and if RNH can be at least a 56-point player again then the Oilers offence should improve significantly. The need for two scoring lines is a must this year, and I think RNH will be the guy to lead the second line.

LINEUPS

Pouliot-RNH-Puljujarvi
Hendricks-Letestu-Kassian
Versteeg-Caggiula-Pakarinen
Khaira-Lander-Slepyshev

Klefbom-Larsson
Oesterle-Fayne
Reinhart-Benning

Talbot
Brossoit

Puljujarvi will have a much better chance to succeed playing with RNH compared to Vesce. I think Puljujarvi will be a very good player for the Oilers in the future, and Kris Versteeg gives them the option to let him develop in the AHL. I still think that will be best option for him based on past history.

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Connor-Schiefele-Wheeler
Laine-Petan-Armia
Burmistrov-Lowry-Tanev
Howden-De Leo-Thorburn

Morrisey-Byfuglien
Enstrom-Kostalek
Melchiori-Postma

Hutchinson
Pavelec

I’m curious to see Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor. Connor looked good at the rookie tournament, but the size and speed in these games is much different. He has a lot of skill, as does young Patrik Laine, and the Jets, who lack a lot high-end skill, might have both of them in their opening night lineup.

QUICK HITS

SpeedBag

  • Nail Yakupov didn’t skate again today. He has a lower body issue, but McLellan believes he will be able to play Sunday. “I’d like to see Yak playing, but it makes no sense to put him in and make a small injury a big injury,” said McLellan.
  • Patrick Maroon avoided a serious injury which is great news for the Oilers. He will be out a week, but it sounds like he will return and play a few more preseason games.
  • “I need to find him in the right spot. He has a great shot and if I can find him in the good areas, he’ll score.” RNH on playing first game with Puljujarvi.
  • Todd McLellan wants to see Caggiula again at centre. If they like what they see then they will try Draisaitl on the right wing with RNH. Caggiula has played well, but the games get harder as we see more NHL-laden lineups in the final stages of preseason.
  • “The coaching staff was dumb enough to start him on the right side in his first game and not give him any type of confidence. We will put him on the left side tonight and let him play. Obviously his performance wasn’t what he or us hoped it would be, but it was game one. Once he gets to the left side and acclimatized to the game he’ll be fine,” McLellan said regarding Griffin Reinhart.

    Every player feels more comfortable turning one way. Reinhart is not an elite NHL skater to begin with, and when you ask him to play the right side and pivot to his non-strong side you are asking for trouble. I didn’t expect Reinhart to crack the opening lineup anyways, but obviously they would like him to play better. He will have more success on the left side, but I still see him starting the season in the AHL.

  • It is way to early to be concerned about Milan Lucic playing with Connor McDavid. I was amazed how many texts I received to my show yesterday after Wednesday’s game from concerned fans. McDavid and Lucic had one practice together before Wednesday’s game. Why would anyone expect them to have instant chemistry? As for the concerns about Lucic’s speed — is he slower than Patrick Maroon? In his short time with McDavid Maroon seemed to do fine last season. Lucic has also played with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Anze Kopitar. He knows how to play with skilled players.

    It is way too early to know if they will have chemistry, but speed is only one small element of it. The most important aspect is seeing the ice the same and thinking the game at the same level. The other factor is Lucic mentioned he’s never been great in the preseason.

    Here’s a quick look at his first ten games of the season in the past five seasons:

    He had one point in his first give games in LA last year, and then had six points in the next five.
    The year before in Boston he had no points in his first five games and then six in his next five.
    In 2013/14 he had 11 points in his first ten games.
    In 2012 he had six points in his first ten games.
    In 2011 he had seven points in first ten games.

    The first four years were with Boston where he had played mainly with Krejci. Last year he got used to Kopitar and now he’ll have to adjust to McDavid.

TONIGHT

TalbotStock

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GAME DAY PREDICTION: Talbot plays the full game and keeps Oilers in it. They lose 3-2 in OT.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Larsson and Klefbom have a solid game and Oilers fans try not to get too giddy over the potential of having a solid #1 pair.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Wagon scores. Matt Hendricks scores a greasy rebound tally.


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    • Hemmercules

      Horrible timing for Yak. He badly needs to be on the ice to prove he deserves a roster spot and he can’t even play. I ‘m looking forward to seeing if he made any improvements over the summer. Last chance in Edmonton I would think.

      I still think its too early to write off Reinhart. Guy is only 22. Might never live up to those picks he was traded for though depending on how they turn out. Its just too bad they didn’t use those picks on immediate help instead of a guy that needs a couple years of seasoning.

    • Spydyr

      “The coaching staff was dumb enough to start him on the right side in his first game and not give him any type of confidence. We will put him on the left side tonight and let him play. Obviously his performance wasn’t what he or us hoped it would be, but it was game one. Once he gets to the left side and acclimatized to the game he’ll be fine,” McLellan said regarding Griffin Reinhart.”

      It is refreshing to see the Oilers finally admit they have no idea as to how to develop young players.

      • Hemmercules

        No kidding eh, why haven’t they fired Mclellan and Chia already? Stupid old boys club always ruining everything.

        One game man. One pre season game. Always looking for negatives.

    • BM

      “Patrick Maroon avoided a serious injury which is great news for the Oilers. He will be out a week, but it sounds like he will return and play a few more preseason games.”

      Music! Maybe this season truly will be different, cause any other season that would have read: “Maroon out indefinitely”.

      Go oil

    • Shredder

      Obvious game day prediction: Everyone talks about a potential trade for Trouba and they use up every LD option in the Oilers for comparison by the end of the game.

    • TKB2677

      Versteeg is already showing his versatility. Played the right wing last game, jumps over to the left. Has the ability to play up and down your lines and contribute. Pretty valuable type of player to have on your team I think.

      I agree with previous comments in that this is the worst thing that could happen. Yak is behind the 8 ball and I felt he was in serious endanger of even being on the opening night roster and maybe even the team. He needs to be practing and playing.

        • Coolwhip

          sweet, good timing! i’m needing parts for my beater and stuff to do my oil change. speaking of oil change, that sportsnet series was so nauseating and depressing to watch. they should really look at a reviving that series under the new chia/mclellan regime, bet it’d be a lot more interesting and refreshing to watch now.

    • While Lucic was a total dud in his first pre season game, like mentioned way too early to write him off as Connor’s left hand man… Seemed to be kind of amazed with the plays the kid could make. I remember one cutaway shot just before a commercial break and Looch had that ‘Did he just do that?!’ look on his face.

      Get open and keep your stick on the ice, everything should be fine.

    • DN

      I would rather have McDavid start the year with players he was most comfortable playing with last season. Let’s get him going first rather than let’s get Lucuc going.

      Maybe later try out the McDavid Lucic combo.

      • TKB2677

        How do you develop chemistry with anyone if you don’t play with them.

        Like Gregor wrote, Lucic, McDavid, Eberle practiced together one time, then played. That’s it ONCE. Lucic and Eberle have been in camp 1 week stretching and playing pass with junior players and AHLers. McDavid has been playing extremely high level hockey for a month against the best players in the world. I wonder if McDavid is ahead in conditioning, his hands, skating. Lucic and McDavid have never played together and Eberle hasn’t played with McDavid since early April, so 5 months. BUt because they didn’t step on the ice and have instant chemistry and paly like a line that’s been together for years, everyone wants to blow it up.

        When Nuge goes out there and skates circles around Pouliot because he’s a month ahead of Pouliot who hasn’t played much, I suppose people are going to freak out about Pouliot and Nuge having no chemistry.

      • ubermiguel

        Defeats the purpose of pre-season. In due time.

        Trying not to get too excited but Klef and Larsson had a great second half of game 1, hoping they can continue improving together.

        • A-Mc

          Says who? Preseason as a full NHL club would allow the guys to get back into the swing of things BEFORE the games actually count.

          When getting points is priority #1, then its a no brainer in my mind.

      • Canoe Ride 27.1

        Cagguila is proving to be more versatile and valuable than Yak. With JP, Versteeg and his trade request, the writing is on the wall.

        And I like Yak, but I don’t see a happy ending here.

        • Spoils

          might be a tad early to make those pronouncements, but what a nice problem to have.

          and one reason to float Yak with McD – they played well last year and maybe it puffs up Yaks numbers. hard to see us getting value back for Yak without a move like that.

          JP can get his AHL time while Yak’s value is being built.

      • @Hallsy4

        Maroon-McDavid-Ebs

        Lucic-Draisaitl-Versteeg

        Pouliot-Nuge-Pulj

        Hendo-Drake-Kassian

        If Pulj isn’t ready, maybe move the Drake to his spot or else Yak…. but I think Yak is a goner sooner or later. Also, depending on how effective Letestu is this year, so far I’d rather have the Drake than him…. I guess it depends on PK and Faceoffs. I like the look of our forwards now, and look out whenever Pulj is ready…Still can’t believe we got him. A third line with Pouliot-Nuge-Pulj/Yak might have been our first line a few years ago (Cogs-Ganger-Nilson). Things are looking up, I sometimes forget just how bad we were during the heart of the decade of despair… Takes a while to get depth at all positions, and I finally think we may have it. Talbots a rock, and D looks better than it has in years with lots of young guys coming. Savor the mall

    • TKB2677

      The sooner people come to grips with the fact that Yakupov won’t be in the Oilers top 6 maybe ever again, the easier it will be for people to come to terms with it.

      Versteeg will be on this team. They didn’t bring him in to cut him. Plus the Oilers could use a versatile vet player that can play both wings, play on all 4 lines and do OK. Plus he’s good in the room.

      Eberle is here obviously.

      Puljujarvi may not start opening night but at some point he will be with the team this season.

      Kassian is on the team.

      Unless Cagguila flames out, they are going to try Draisaitl on second line RW to get him into the top 6 plus help Nuge at center.

      Keep an eye on Slepyshev. He made the team last year but didn’t last. He’s looking good, playing a lot and is on the RW.

      It wouldn’t surprise me to see Yak either traded for next to nothing or start in the pressbox. I am not hating on Yakupov, I just look at who’s here, the opinions of the coach staff of him and the fact that in order to succeed, he has to play in the top 6 and be basically has to play with McDavid and I don’t for a second think McLellan wants Yak anywhere near McDavid. Plus it wouldn’t shock me if McDavid doesn’t want Yak on his wing. So I don’t see where he fits in.

    • RJ

      So Nuge dipped in production because of injury? That’s one possibility.

      Another possibility is that with actual centre depth, Nuge wasn’t getting all the cherry usage he had in past seasons. 1PP. Who do you put out there? McDavid if he’s healthy, Drai if he wasn’t. The team is better off with the better offensive centres playing those minutes. That gives less offensive TOI for Nuge which means he’s more likely to get less scoring chances.

      It’s not a bad thing. But he’s not likely to break 60 points playing more of a defensive role. 35-40 points for the season.

    • GK1980

      Well that was a terrible game. The special teams so far this pre season are brutal. BRUTAL. I hope they get this figured out before October.12. Talbot also looked a little off.

    • Rob...

      I only caught the last 15 minutes of the game through choppy video. Shame on Sportsnet for not carrying the game despite having Oilers and Jets dedicated channels. Luckily it saved me from PVR’ing the game and watching the whole pathetic thing.