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.

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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.

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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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  • Pugnasty

    Move him for a cheaper winger. 6 million is too much to pay for what he brings. Now if he was 2 million you keep him. One Steve Austin left, so much for value contracts hey MacTidiot?

  • Cowboy Bill

    But there are so many interchangeable parts it’s incredibly unique . There are 7 players that have played center , two LW , two RW and one guy that plays either wing . Slot them in any way you want , the lineup has so much versatility it just doesn’t matter .

  • Bills Bills

    It blows me away at how short Oilers fans memories are. 3 years ago our weakness was at a lack of depth at center and defense. We finally solve the center issue and are almost cured on the back end and you want to strip one away for another? Why wasn’t RNH tried on the wing this past season? Because he has been their best defensive center. Who’s going to pick up that slack? McDavid can’t play the whole game at every position. If RNH gets traded, it is strictly for the cap implications. This team still needs him and as Leon matures and gets better at both ends of the ice, I see RNH moving to the wing. As for where he fits in, anywhere. RNH is versatile, coachable and smart as they come. He can play and I see no appetite or reason to move him.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

    Either play him with McDavid, or ship him out for a RD like Justin Faulk. I love Nuge and I think he can be effective, but 6 mil is too much for a 3rd line center. If the Toddfather and Chiarelli can’t fit him into the top 6 they should move him to improve the team overall.

    • Reg Dunlop

      If the return for Nuge was something like Falk the trade would have happened already. I think that a defensively responsible, undersized 3rd line centre making 6 mil might not have a lot of value. Just like a one dimensional left wing brought back a trade return that disappointed some here.

      • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

        I don’t think that Nuge is a defensively responsible, undersized 3C, he’s just being forced into that role here because of the two centers in front of him. He would be a 2C on most other teams. If he gets a chance to play on either McDavid’s or Leon’s wing then I think it will work out fine. You’re right about the value of the trade up to this point, but I think Chiarelli is going to wait and see before he makes a move anyway. If Nuge is playing 3C all year then I think he trades him midseason or next offseason, there’s no pressure to do it until McDavid’s contract kicks in anyway.

  • ScottV

    It’s hard to understand why McL has not given Nuge a good look at 1 or 2 rw. Have been asking this question forever.

    Sorry – but Nuge is not the 2c, when you got the likes of Drai in the fold. Why cant people see that we have an elite world class – elegant – big man in the middle c man that needs to gain some experience, so we got no problem with guys like Getzlaf in playoffs games to come.

    McD doesn’t need Drai and Drai don’t need McD. Sure the odd shift together and work the number 1 pp, but some of our other pretty good players (Maroon, Lucic, Nuge, Puljujarvi – etc) need to play with an elite world class c man – and we got two of them. Lucic and Drai are a natural, because Drai can speed it up and slow it down, to utilize Lucic in support, wheras McD only knows one speed – lightning fast and way beyond Lucic’s range.

    If – Nuge can play effective top 6 rw and back up top 2c, then maybe you got something. Take a look McL – for crying out loud. If it don’t work after a decent look by staying away from the premature blender button – then, you know what you gotta do.

  • Consultant

    This is the beauty of a centre like Nuge – flexibility.
    In my mind he is underrated for his play on the boards, he wins tons of puck battles. I think he’d make a fine winger, Nuge and Drai can bounce back and forth between Connor’s wing and 2nd line centre. And let him QB PP2 from the right side boards.

  • D

    Nuge was clutch during the Anaheim series and consistently shut down the Ducks. Find a way to keep him. The Oilers with McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins down the middle is one of the strongest teams at centre. That is a refreshing change compared to just a few years back when the Oilers were one of the weakest at that position.

  • camdog

    The organisation believes that RnH will bring more offence if they put him on the wing. The coach made the comment some time back in respect to the Paveski comment. The theory hasn’t been tested, but I’m sure it’s on the radar for this season. I’d be shocked if he starts this season at centre.

  • madjam

    What is Hopkins worth ? Sportrax has the figures and players at all levels and positions . I feel Hopkins is perhaps overpaid by .5 M -1M for his play now , even allowing for special team play . That is not an awful lot considering , and the dropoff after 5M is substantial in most players overall contribution – be it Center , LW or RW . It is not like Hopkins is alone in being an underachieving 6M forward , but he is still young , and could improve more to make that 6M contract more viable/attractive . Trading Hopkins for a 4M player or less , will not make the team better – it will have a negative effect .

    • DannyGallivan

      You and Dan1919 are both right. He has talent, he hasn’t shown it at the $6M level. 1) We are under the cap, 2) have made a number of moves and 3) have a number of people gaining experience and confidence so lots of moving parts already. Lets see what we have.

      Trading him now will not get you much and IF he has a bounce back year then as 3C or 1 or 2 W it could make an enormous difference. Give him a year to bounce back or bounce out.

  • I really like RNH… but I feel the Oilers need a RD that plays the power play more than they need a plethora or centers. So I would trade him and package him with whatever it takes to get a stud RD. In other words, I don’t see how he fits in to the future.

    • Rock11

      They don’t have room for the stud RD that everybody keeps talking about. When Sekera returns you then have 7D not counting Gryba for 6 spots. Yes depth is good but which of Russell, Benning, or Nurse is going to sit every game. You can’t sit the 2 kids as it would stall their development and judging by the contract KR isnt going to the press box. If you trade Nuge for a D then IMO a D has to go with him in the package. The player coming back better be damn good to make that worthwhile. This by the way is reason 2487 to hate the KR deal.

      • NoBuBlackOPS

        If it came to trading RNH for a RHD. We could of always send nurse or Benning down to the minors as both are on ELC. I’m not a fan of that option but it can be done.

  • Hemmercules

    Keep him this season, try him on the wing with McD for at least a couple weeks. Shop him for a winger or a cheaper centre after the playoffs when he’s too expensive to keep.

  • Dirtbag Daddy

    The best spot for Nuge is with the New York Rangers. That would place all with New Jersey, Eberle with NYI and the Nuge with the NY Rangers. That way they can play with each other regularly and be able to hang out on weekends.

  • 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.