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Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Summer of Nuge

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is currently continuing to grow his bromance with Connor McDavid in Denmark. Nuge is off to a nice start at the World Championships being locked in on the left side with McDavid, as the coaching staff continues to rotate players through on the right-side. Sound familiar?

I had a chance to catch up with Nugent-Hopkins on my show Wednesday morning. We discussed a number of different topics, including his inability to find a stream of the Kentucky Derby in Denmark.

Let’s break down a few of the things he had to say.

McNuge Lives

Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid (97) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) in discussion at center ice. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

After waiting far too long to put Nugent-Hopkins on McDavid’s wing, the Oilers are fortunate to have the two players get an extra couple of weeks together overseas.

“Anytime you get to play with each other it definitely helps, so playing over here, we’ve had four games together, it’s been feeling pretty good. It’s easier to come over and play with someone you are familiar with, on the other side it should help us build chemistry if we are playing together in the future,” is what Nugent-Hopkins said about the extra time together.

What’s up with “if we are playing together in the future”? Silly Nuge. Todd McLellan has certainly frustrated a lot of people with his line juggling but I’d be shocked if Nugent-Hopkins isn’t on McDavid’s wing for the opener next season.

On The Power-Play

I do think the Oilers best chance to succeed is with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins together on the power-play. The only problem with having both of them on the same unit is they both excel in the same position on the ice. I asked Nuge if he was open to adjustments on the PP.

“The side I’m playing right now, I’ve played in the past and for a lot of this year so it hasn’t been too big of an adjustment.”

I’d like to see the Oilers load up the top PP unit with McDavid, Nuge, Draisaitl, plus a right shot forward and of course a d-man that Chiarelli gives up too much for this off-season.

On McLellan Returning

Nugent-Hopkins has been with the Oilers for seven seasons and has had six different head coaches. Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Craig MacTavish, Todd Nelson and Todd McLellan have all had a chance to coach the first overall pick in 2011.

“I’ve been here for seven years and I’ve had a lot of coaches. It is nice to have a familiar face back there. You already know what he expects and he knows what he can expect from you. He knows his players and we know his systems,” said Nugent-Hopkins when asked about the return of McLellan.

Random Nuge Horse Racing Notes

  • He couldn’t find a stream of the Kentucky Derby in Denmark so he watched the replays and is hoping someone back home taped it. A small part of me likes to imagine Nuge still operating with VHS recordings.
  • He currently has two horses racing. His most successful horse is a four-year old named Yukon Belle that was the horse of the year in Vancouver two years ago
  • Yes, he really loves horses. I hate horses. It’s a long story.

What’s Next For Nuge

In the immediate future, I’m going to guess it’s leading Team Canada in goals on the way to a Gold Medal in Denmark. Next season it’s a return to the most sought after spot in the NHL, riding shotgun with 97.

McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins were first united on March 10th against the Minnesota Wild. Pontus Aberg got the first look on the right side and didn’t do much with the opportunity, except party. McNuge was left together for the final 13 games of the season. Nugent-Hopkins finished that final stretch with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 13 games. McDavid was pretty good as well, I guess, chalking up 27 points in those same 13 games.

Let’s pretend that in some crazy world McLellan leaves Nugent-Hopkins with McDavid all season. What are reasonable offensive expectations for the Oilers horseracing enthusiast?

I said on my show this week, and I’m not changing my mind in the blogosphere, that I would be disappointed if Nugent-Hopkins finished with anything less than 35 goals and 80 points.  Some of you may be yelling at your computer screen, or mobile device, right now. “HE’S NEVER HAD MORE THAN 56 POINTS IN SEASON NIELSON!”. Calm down. You’re right. He hasn’t, but that’s about to change. In order for that to change McLellan just needs to leave things the same.

In their final 13 games together, McDavid was clipping along at 2.07 points per game while Nuge sat at 1.15. I know it’s a small sample size but if you pro-rate his numbers for an 82 game season, Nugent-Hopkins would finish with 94 points. If McDavid can hit 120-130 points next season it’s actually very reasonable to think his go-to linemate tops out at 85-95 points. McNuge is real, and it’s spectacular.

P.S. Keep Nuge Forever

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  • ubermiguel

    I’m predicting Nuge with 1 point per game and McDavid with 1.5 per game (assuming a mostly injury-free year…please Gord let it be an injury free year). The fact Nuge has managed to develop as a player with that many coaches and some major time lost due to injury is a credit to his professionalism.

  • gordo

    first off maclellan thinks he knows more hockey than us, which he probably does, but i worry he’ll screw it up. if the guys stay healthy nuge should be good for 70 points

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I agree,… This line: ” He knows his players and we know his systems,” said Nugent-Hopkins when asked about the return of McLellan.” Worries the heck out of me. What did those players & more importantly, systems, do for the Oiler’s last year? This Nuge quote worries me, regarding being able to compete with the best in the league as we are seeing now with the remaining playoff teams.
      What happened to this team in the 2017 off-season? Also, the writer’s quote about “Pontus, the Partyer” doesn’t crap like that get dealt with at the team level with the Oiler’s?
      There must be some semblance of truth to all these rumblings of carrying on behind the scenes. Great teams cut the cord on that crap. You have to, to succeed in this League.

  • CaptainCanada94

    I love McNuge. If Chia or TMac don’t give this a chance, they are cementing their own fate. McD never got a chance to play any legit minutes with Hall either which is such a shame!!!

    Give McNuge a shot all year. Improve PP. Dont trade 10th pick.

  • GreasyOilChef

    I just hope Draisaitl has a winger that he clicks with right off the bat…I can see Todd revert back to old habits and go back to 97/29…Hopefully it never comes to that. I hope McNuge lasts all season and if it doesn’t, I hope Chia has the sense to fire McLellen if things go sour early…I just never saw the logic in playing Draisaitl on the wing where his size and playmaking ability could be better utilized at centre…I couldn’t imagine seeing Anaheim or LA playing Getzlaf or Kopitar on the wings…Todd must be a closet gamer and religiously blends his lines playing NHL18 haha

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    they will be great….until one sleeps with the others’ sister or gf this offseason and screw up the locker room….. that’s never happened before tho, so the chances are slim right? lol…… but seriously, I pray NOT, we’ve suffered enough

  • toprightcorner

    If the PP gets into the top 10, Nuge will score 35 goals and 75 pts without much difficulty. If they can get a winger for Draisaitl, Nuge with 75 pts will be 3rd on the team in scoring.

  • A-Mc

    I can’t EXPECT more than 70pts out of Nuge. I would be absolutely thrilled if he hit 70pts in a season and i’d be pissed off i didnt trade for him last year in my fantasy hockey league prior to the birth of McNuge.

  • Larry

    I’d like to congratulate my uncle Norman on his engagement as well. He met my new aunt Rita at a lawn bowling tournament. Not sure if they do the horizontal polka as they’re both fairly old but he seems really happy regardless. Congrats Unc!