Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuge: Year-By-Year

This past weekend, I took a look at newcomer James Neal and his linemates during the first ten years of his NHL career. All that piece did was confirm that Neal scored at least 20 goals in every season in which he actually had an opportunity to play with top-six talent. He didn’t get that in Calgary last year and everything fell apart.

At the end of that article, I stated that Tippett would be wise to put Neal with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and leave him there. Neal has mentioned how he is tight with McDavid and could see himself as a fit on 97’s wing. I’d be shocked if Tippett decided to play Neal with McDavid AND Draisaitl. If Neal ends up being a fit with McDavid it would make sense for Draisaitl to help push the second line with Nugent-Hopkins.

I still feel like Nuge and Neal could end up being a good fit and I started wondering what Nuge’s linemate history has looked like during his time in Edmonton. Neal played over 700 minutes with two linemates in the same season three times in his career. Let’s see how Nugent-Hopkins compares.

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2011-12: Rookie season with the Oilers

Head Coach: Tom Renney

Nugent-Hopkins was cruising along in his rookie season prior to suffering a shoulder injury. Before the injury, Nuge had played 645 minutes at 5 on 5 with Jordan Eberle and 381 minutes with Taylor Hall. The rookie finished with .83 points per game, a total that remined the best of his career until this season when he put up .84 points per game.

2012-13: Lockout Season

Head Coach: Ralph Krueger

After crushing the American League during the lockout Nuge struggled in his sophomore campaign with the Oilers scoring just 4 times in 40 games. His two most common line mates were once again Eberle (486 min.) and Hall (388 min.).

2013-14: Third season with the Oilers

Head Coach: Dallas Eakins

Nuge played close to a full season in 2013-14 and managed to put up 56 points once again spending the majority of his 5-on-5 time with Eberle and Hall. He played 755 minutes with Eberle and just over 680 with Taylor Hall. He was still just 21-years old and finished 4th on the team in scoring. This would end up being the only season in his career in which he played at least 680 minutes with two players.

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2014-15: Fourth season with the Oilers

Head Coach: Eakins / Craig MacTavish / Todd Nelson

Even though Nugent-Hopkins had three different coaches he played more with Jordan Eberle than ever before. Eberle and Nuge spent 908 minutes together in a season that ended up being a complete disaster for the Oilers. He played 507 with Hall that year but also spent 372 minutes with Benoit Pouliot. Like the previous season Nuge finished with 56 points, tieing his career high at the time.

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2015-16: Fifth season with Oilers, McDavid Arrives

Head Coach: Todd McLellan

It was a frustrating first season under Todd McLellan for Nugent-Hopkins as a subpar offensive campaign was actually cut short by a broken hand. In the 55 games he did play, his most common linemates were once again Eberle and Hall even though he didn’t end up spending more than 350 minutes with either of them.

2016-17: Sixth season with the Oilers

Head Coach: Todd McLellan

I don’t think I’m alone in saying this may have been the most disappointing season of Nuge’s career. He managed to play all 82 games but finished with just 43 points despite having Eberle riding shotgun for 638 minutes. It’s probably silly to beat a dead horse at this point but Nuge’s second most common linemate in his least productive season was, you guessed it, Milan Lucic. He spent over 435 minutes with Lucic that year. The Oilers made the playoffs that spring but the Nuge, Eberle, Lucic line struggled to generate offence when the games really mattered.

2017-18: Seventh season with the Oilers

Head Coach: Todd McLellan

Another injury-shortened season for Nugent-Hopkins and another year of passing pucks to Lucic. In the 62 games he was healthy for, he played 314 minutes with Lucic and 223 with Maroon.
2018-19: Eighth season with the Oilers

Four years ago today, the Edmonton Oilers traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson

2018:19 – Eighth season with the Oilers

Head Coach: Todd McLellan/Ken Hitchcock

It’s no coincidence that the best season of Nugent-Hopkins’ career also came in a season in which his most common five-on-five linemate was Connor McDavid. He spent 376 minutes with Connor, 289 with Alex Chiasson, 241 with Jesse Puljujarvi and 211 with Lucic.

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Since Jordan Eberle was traded two years ago Nugent-Hopkins two most common linemates have been Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic but very rarely did all three of them play together. Nuge was basically either with McDavid on the top line or trying to get things going with Lucic on the second unit.
It’s interesting to me that James Neal played over 700 minutes with the same two linemates three times in his career and Nugent-Hopkins has only played over 700 minutes with the same line mate once.
We know James Neal has been able to produce with consistent linemates in the past, will he be able to get back on track with a steady diet of Nuge here in Edmonton? I’d be pretty confident in saying he would.

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After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.

  • When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
  • Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
  • How much – $1000/team
  • Teams – Groups of Four (4)
  • How – Book your team here

As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • Serious Gord

    Neal didn’t get to play with top six talent in yyc? That’s not what I understood to be what happened. At the start of the season he was put with the best players (at the amount they signed him for you would expect that) but he was so out of shape and performed so poorly they soon put him back with Janikowski.

    So it was not as if he wasn’t given the opportunity…

      • Serious Gord

        My point is that Neal failed to deliver and was relegated to the third line. That was his fault not the Flames’ which is what the author is implying.

    • Larry

      2018-19: One year in Calgary

      Last season was an extremely frustrating one for Neal in Calgary. His shooting percentage plummeted and he had a difficult time getting any consistent minutes from Bill Peters. Neal was basically tossed around the line up playing 336 minutes with Mark Janikowski, 247 with Sam Bennett, 158 with Mikael Backlund and 146 with Derek Ryan. He played less than 100 minutes with Sean Monahan.

      • Nanook

        he had also just finished playing in back to back cup finals that had completely thrown out his training schedule. maybe not the best excuse but I can see how it may have taken some time to get back to speed. I would sooned bet on Neal getting back to his prior level than Looch, and if not we have a much better buyout contract. so even if it don’t work we are miles ahead of dragging Looch’s boat anchor contract around. Not that I like buying out players but at least this one could be swallowed if need be.

    • ed from edmonton

      Yes and this is why there is some logic to expecting Neal to bounce back. It has been reported that the short off season after going to the cup final and “resting” some nagging issues in the summer his off season training was less than it should have been. When other wingers showed better early in the year he was rightfully demoted to bottom 6 and his season was on the rocks. We will find out of a better off season will help him this year.

      • TKB2677

        He was to the cup finals in back to back years. Typically most players are beaten the hell up. So you finish hockey by mid June. Depending on how hurt he was, it might take you a month to recover. So we are into the middle of July, maybe even the start of August and you haven’t started training yet. Then in a month you are at camp. If people listened to him talk recently, he’s been training with Roberts since June. Big, big difference than last year

    • billsbills

      Eberle is not a play maker or fore checker. He’s a finisher who didn’t finish much in his last season with the Oilers.

      Lucic has had hands of stone for 2 full years. Aside from McDavid , who on that

    • Ken Holland

      Peter’s already had his mind made up on Neal before the season began. He came on sn960 when hired and talked about Lindholm being a the fit he saw for the top line.

      He than proceeded to give Neal one preseason game in China on the top line before moving him off of there.

      Neal spent most of the season with Jani and Bennett. They combined for 18 assists last year. Being paired with Nuge will be a huge upgrade for him.

      Again think and maybe do some research before you post.

    • Odanada

      I’m betting Looch pots a few goals early in the season, the Flame fans hold a trade victory parade, then Milan’s point production dries up to nothing.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Since Puljujarvi sits 5th on the RW depth chart AT BEST, and since he has not signed or has even expressed interest in resigning here, it would only take a few simultaneous injuries, a complete attitude adjustment and Holland softening his stance on player’s agents that try to run the show. Miracles happen every day, though, so look for the big lug aimlessly skating around while McDavid cuts hard to the net. It could happen. A lasting peace in the Middle East could happen. Lucic winning the Rocket Richard could happen. An edit button here could happen.

  • ed from edmonton

    Perhaps RNH’s best attribute has been his adaptability. he came into the league as most No.1 as having offensive star potential. Early on in his career he was asked to put more emphasis on his defensive game and it was pretty obvious that he did and his offensive production was limited. Last year he looked to put more emphasis on offence, which resulted in career high points. He continues to be a very valuable 2C.

  • Ken Holland

    If we send Gagner, Brodziak, Manning and Cave down how much cap space do we save? We have 16 forwards signed, do we get some cap relief when we cut it down to 13?

    Does anyone know the answer to this. Reason being is that we could sure use Gusev for our top 6, allowing Chiasson to help provide some bottom six scoring.

    Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
    Neal – Nuge – Gusev
    Granlund – Khaira – Chiasson
    Nygard – Haas – Archibald


    Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
    Neal – Nuge – Chiasson
    Granlund – Brassard – Nygard
    Haas – Khaira – Archibald

  • Bond 0097

    I think an option that nobody is talking about but should be is that Leo moves to the second Line with Neal and Nuge plays wing for Connor. Leo is an elite passer and I think both he and Neal could benefit playing on the same line.


      Neal and Nuge works better I think. Neal doesn’t bring a lot of defensive acumen and doesn’t have the two-way make up in his game to play with Leon, and you don’t want to have a line that is dangerous in the offensive zone but a risk in the defensive zone; not to mention that you want Drai and McD to continue to produce at the rate we saw last season. Having RNH as your pivot is better because he can play the two-way role on the line and allow Neal to play his game instead of Neal sacrificing offensive potential for defense.

    • Muddy

      Drai scored 50 off of McDavid, why on Earth do people want to break up that line? Neal like Drai is a pure shooter, split them up with two great centers and we might just have a couple lines that can score.

  • Muddy

    The thing I love about him playing with Nuge is that he is so bloody unselfish. Nuge wants his linemates to succeed and often passes maybe when he should be shooting. Neal is a pure finisher and finally having a winger that can pick his spots with a very strong shooting percentage can only a good thing for our little Nuge. I can see Neal lighting the lamp for 25 this season off of some beautiful set up passes from Nuge, I think this really might be the linemate he has been looking for over the last 8 seasons.

  • Blackadder

    The other thing that contributed to his decreased production was that for over two years he wasn’t on the first power play unit, and RNH came into the league as a guy who always scored a lot of his points on the PP. It wasn’t just playing with McDavid that improved his numbers last year, it was being placed back onto the #1 pp unit as well.

    As for Neal, I have no idea what to expect from him. In my ideal but maybe not entirely realistic world, Neal returns to form as a top six player and Benson proves he’s ready for the NHL and takes the LW spot on a line with Neal and RNH.

    • Gravis82

      Nuge is not a great 2C. The team would be better off overall with Nuge on Leon win and neal on McDavids wing. Leon only scored an extra 15 goals on McDavids wing that he would have otherwise scored on his own. Balancing out the lines like this would give us more than an extra 15 goals over the course of the season.