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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
NAPA Gold Filter Event Sale
Attention all fleet owners and DIY go-getters! It is time to stock up on the NAPA Gold Filter SALE! From October 3rd through to October 9th our good friends at NAPA Auto Parts are running their NAPA Gold Filter Event for all of your AIR, FUEL, & OIL needs. Blowout pricing on Regular and Synthetic Oils as well! NAPA Auto Parts is keeping money in your pockets and your vehicles running smooth.
Visit one of these three fantastic locations or visit www.napacanada.com and find out how much you can save with pricing that needs to be seen to be believed!
The Nation Discount
Use the discount code “OILERSNATION” when you visit one of these three NAPA locations from October 3rd to October 9th and receive 10% OFF any regular priced items in the store.
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