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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Where does Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fit in?

For a brief period during Rebuild 2.0, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was widely seen as the most valuable member of the Edmonton Oilers, the team’s finest centre since Doug Weight. Now he’s been eclipsed by both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and is at risk of becoming a salary cap casualty like long-time running mate Jordan Eberle.

In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask where you’d like to see Nugent-Hopkins start at training camp next season.

The McDavid option. Draisaitl had his most successful season as the right wing on McDavid’s line, and the idea of giving Nugent-Hopkins a shot there has some prominent backers, including Bob Stauffer and David Staples.

It’s easy to come up with reasons this might be a good idea.

The obvious one is as a way to reignite Nugent-Hopkins’ faltering offence. The 24-year-old has had successful offensive seasons but the last two years have been decidedly disappointing. Playing with McDavid might reignite that spark, either making him a long-term fit in that position or at the very least raising his value if the Oilers decide to trade his contract next summer.

There’s also Nugent-Hopkins’ two-way play to consider. Even when he isn’t scoring, he has added value to Edmonton’s lineup on the defensive side of the puck, and given the opponents McDavid’s line will see there’s value in playing him there.

Second line centre. This more or less assumes that Draisaitl will be returning to the first line right wing role, leaving the second slot open to Nugent-Hopkins, where he would likely be playing with Milan Lucic and one of the Oilers’ young wingers.

This is what coach Todd McLellan opted for during most of last season, though at least last season the team also had the option of sticking Jordan Eberle on the right side. This line had success down the stretch but famously struggled to score in the postseason.

Third line centre. Remember the three scoring lines on the 2006 Oilers? That diversified attack was a significant part of their postseason success that year (having Chris Pronger helped, too) and that’s probably the last time Edmonton sustained three strong attacking lines for any length of time.

It’s just possible that they might be able to do it again, running McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 slots down the middle. My preferred wingers to start on the third line (regardless of centre arrangement) are Jussi Jokinen and Jesse Puljujarvi because it’s the situation I think likely to bring out the best in both of those players. Playing weaker opponents with two skilled wingers might also bring out the best in Nugent-Hopkins.

With another team. This is pretty unlikely in mid-July, but there are always teams out there that could use a centre and there are a few unresolved issues around the NHL. If he’s going to slot in on the wing anyway, it’s at least defensible to try and move him for a cheaper winger.

What would you do?

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  • Rhettzky

    I would love to see him go RW with 97. I love him but drai has forced him out of a job as 2C. In my eyes he is the only guy from the DoD that really bought in and wants to win with Edmonton. If they can find a spot where he can contribute I think they should do it. But, if they find another option which strengthens the team without him… ultimately I’m an Oilers fan, not a 93 fan.

  • wiseguy

    RNH with McDavid wouldn’t work as Drai was taking the faceoffs with McD. Having 2 poor faceoff % guys on the same line would result in much less puck possession.

    • Gravis82

      If Drai is at 2C, why not give a 6 million dollar player with skill, who is bad at faceoffs and not quite large enough to do the heavy lifting, a chance at right wing with the best player in the world? I would bet medium sums of money that he would produce more on McDavids RW than Eberle did/would have.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Maroon-McD-Strome
    Lucic-Drai-Yamamoto*
    Jokkinen-Nuge-JP
    JJ/Slepy-Letestu-Kass

    *Yamamoto is a dream I know, but think of the skilled little guy with big studs like Looch and Drai

  • Jimmer

    Another team. Brendan Gallagher please! RNH is a better player but B.G.’s cap hit is only 3.75MM with similar stats. Montreal needs a centre so that Drouin can play wing. We need a true RW (with speed and grit) that might get 60 points playing with McD. Gallagher is from Edmonton too….

  • ed from edmonton

    I remain amazed statements such as “he has added value to Edmonton’s lineup on the defensive side of the puck”. I don’t see his D play being more than average and when he in matched up against a physical center like Getzlaf he gets rag dolled. RHN has evolved into a middling center, at both ends of the rink, nothing more. Perhaps a change of position, like wing with a high caliber center, or a new team will prove good for him.

    PC and TM love centers and RNH will likely stay for one more year and may get moved between centre and wing. Hard to see a scenario that will keep him with the OIl a year from now.

  • Bubba Train

    Based on recent signings, If Nuge faces top lines and still manages to put up 45 to 50 points with very little power play time, his contract has become reasonable.

  • T-Bag

    Why not put him on a line With Drai? McD is going to elevate anyone’s play. I mean. You could literally put a chicken on Connors wing and it’s gonna get 30 points a year. So solidify that 2nd !! Lucic Drai Nuge … 21 million dollar line. Wow.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Nuge does not hurt us, and that’s a lot more than you can say about the other 6 million dollar man. I’d like to see him stay…but he’s gonna have to take a pay cut to do so. People need to realize that when you’re not the number 1 centre you don’t get as many PP opportunities as you used to. He is not the go-to guy, his role changed. He is a really good defensive Fwd now. I’d like to find a way to keep him. He’s also a classy guy and team player. Find a way to keep him…he will score some big playoff goals in the future. My prediction. 🙂

    • Oilerchild77

      Totally agree with you. Just to be clear, my previous comment was not meant as a “run him outta town” thing. I just can’t justify 6M for a third line center. Also, he would really fit in with Montreal considering their need at center

  • Mcjesus97

    Pre deadline: Maroon. Mcdavid. Nuge. Lucic. Drai. Jokinen. Drake. Strome. Khaira. Slepyshev. Letestu. Kassian. Post deadline: Maroon. Mcdavid. Strome. Lucic. Drai. Puljujarvy. Drake. Jokinen. Khaira. Slepyshev. Letestu. kassian. Extra pakarinen. Klefbom. Larrson. Russell. Faulk. Nurse. Benning. Hard to pull a trade off like that. But imo nuge alone won’t get us Faulk. But this second roster looks damn good on paper to me.

  • TKB2677

    What will hurt Nuge’s time with the Oilers is the contracts that are coming up after this season. The Oilers will have:
    McDavid’s 12.5 to take on. He could have gotten more in my opinion so I am OK with the number but taking on 12.5 mill at once is massive.
    Maroon will be a UFA – Unless he has a massive drop off which I don’t see, he will easily score more than 20 goals. So he will have a 27 goal season and a 20+ goal season.The Ducks are picking up part of his salary but he is only making 2 mill cap wise. He will get a big raise. So he either gets resigned or you have to find a replacement.
    Strome will be an RFA.
    Letestu will be a UFA. So they will need a replacement for him as I doubt he gets resigned at his age.
    Jokinen will be a UFA- They may or may not want another depth forward like him.
    Slepyshev will be an RFA.
    Caggiula will be an RFA.
    Benning will be an RFA
    Nurse will be an RFA.
    Brossiot will be an RFA.

    They will have Fayne’s 3.625 and Korpikoski’s 1 mill gone. So maybe that covers a couple of guys. Maybe if they are lucky they have an internal replacement for Letestu, Maroon and Jokinen, I don’t know if they do but maybe. But they still have 7 RFA’s they will need to sign assuming they want them all. Except for Strome who is at 2.5 mill, the other 6 make less than 1 mill. So everyone of them will probably get a decent raise. Even if they double their salaries, they would all be under 2 mill which I don’t see all of them getting done for that little.

    So I don’t see how Nuge can stay with his 6 mill salary just for money reasons.

  • 24_McClelland

    Even though he’s a 1st overall pick, I’ve always viewed Nuge as a bit of an underdog, and liked him. If Leon is seen as 2C for this team going forward, I can’t see the Nuge as a 3C given his AAV. Either he’s 2C, or he slots in the top 6 on the wing. I don’t see why he’s not made an appearance so far on Connor’s wing, I think they might be dynamite together. Anyway, there’s a reason Nuge is the last man standing out of the first 3 #1’s and Eberle, and it isn’t because he’s untradeable. If there’s a way to keep him an Oiler, in my mind it just makes the team better. I wouldn’t be surprised at 60+ pts this year (I think he’d put up ppg #’s on Connor’s wing), which would be good for Nuge, good for the Oilers season, and good in the event they’re forced to deal him.

    • Clubhouse

      Remember the first home game against Calgary Mcdavid got that sweet breakaway where he got tripped up for a penalty shot. That was a nuge pass when they were on a 4 on 4 off the boards from our defensive end to just after the redline absolutely amazing. I’ve been waiting for them to team up ever since and I don’t recall it happening again. I think theyd be dynamite such speed and passing.

  • nuge2drai

    Place Nuge on McDavids wing and slot Drai on the 2nd line.

    Than Nuge can finish top 10 in scoring and Drai can finish around the 60 point mark.

    Nuge will ask for a 9 mil extension and the nation will be asking to trade Drais 8 million dollar contract.

    This is why we should bridge Drai.. to bring his value down. Anyone can produce on McDavids wing.

    Do not trade Nuge. We lose our center depth and this team is done.

    Look how long it took the Pens to win another cup without Staal. They needed Bonino before they finally starting winning again.

  • russ99a

    Third line.

    He’s too timid with the puck in the offensive zone, doesn’t too to the tough areas, and poor on the cycle. He wouldn’t go past the circles during the season and coughed up the puck too much in the playoffs.

    Unless there’s dramatic improvements in camp, this excludes him from the top and second lines.

    On a third tough minutes line with Jokinen and Kassian he can give us his usual quality defensive game and chip in some offense.