Let’s say this together. Five times, real loud for the people in the back.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a winger. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a winger. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a winger. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a winger. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a winger.
No longer should we view RNH as a second or third-line threat down the middle of the ice for the Oilers. It’s time to accept fate and embrace the fact that not only is he better suited on the wing, he’s likely the answer to the nagging and debilitating, “Who the hell will play with Connor McDavid,” question.
The answer to that, quite clearly, is The Nuge. If their chemistry and production at the tail-end of the Oilers’ season wasn’t enough to convince you that RNH and McDavid should be spending each waking hockey moment by each other’s sides, then look no further than the duo’s recent prowess at the IIHF Worlds.
Anchoring the top line, McDavid ranks first among Canadian forwards in goals, assists, points (5-8—13) and ice time, while RNH leads the way in the shots department with 27 and sits just behind McDavid in goals (4), points (7) and TOI — and they’ve done it playing together almost every even-strength minute of the tournament.
The pair’s prowess goes deeper than the numbers, too, as the eye-test has been more than kind for McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins during their seven preliminary games together in Denmark.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) May 15, 2018
Both have visibly enjoyed going on the offensive together throughout this tournament, and when guys of this calibre are playing loose and free, it really makes you believe that chemistry — no matter how unquantifiable it may be — is a real damn thing.
The pair have teamed up on a number of tallies throughout the preliminary round, including the absurd McDavid OT winner Monday in Canada’s penultimate round-robin contest against the Latvians. During Wednesday’s clash against Germany, McDavid and RNH tallied the assists on Brayden Schenn’s game-winner just 20 seconds into the opening frame, and connected again later for a Nugent-Hopkins insurance tally off a gorgeous drop pass from No. 97.
This tournament alone has been flooded with prime examples of why the obvious answer to McDavid’s wing-woes is RNH, and when you pair that with the success the duo saw during their month together on the Oilers’ top line at the end of last season, a permanent move to the wing for Nugent-Hopkins becomes an absolute no-brainer.
Todd McLellan finally decided to unite the two for a March 10th contest against the Wild and they clicked instantly, as RNH set up McDavid for the game’s opening goal before the captain returned the favour on a Nugent-Hopkins empty-netter — which happened to be the Nuge’s 300th NHL point.
In the 13 games they played together to cap off the campaign, RNH scored at a 1.15 point-per-game pace. In the 49 games prior, he was registering just 0.67 PPG. McDavid saw his production increase heavily (somehow) after the two joined forces as well, posting 27 points since that fateful March evening — Improving to a 1.80 point-per-game pace from the 1.21 he posted without The Nuge by his side.
So, let’s stop overthinking it. Nugent-Hopkins is officially McDavid’s winger, and that should sound like music to the ears of Oilers fans who have been at the forefront of the first-line debate for the better part of three seasons.