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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
- James Neal: Year-By-Year
- Mr. Lucky
- The Wish List: Mid-Summer Edition
- OILERS TOP TEN PROSPECTS: Post-Draft Edition
- The Great, Good, Bad & Ugly of the Broberg Pick