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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Nuge on 31 Thoughts

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was on the latest edition of the 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, and had some very insightful comments on his 2018-19 season, Ken Holland and what to expect from the new regime, his ideal linemate, the Jesse Puljujarvi saga, and how his game has improved over the course of his NHL career.

This interview was part of Elliot Friedman and Jeff Marek’s first installment of their “Star Series” segments, and were taped at the NHL Media Tour in Chicago last week.

Here are some quick hits:

  • They open up talking about his wedding, with Friedman digging into who was the drunkest teammate there.
    • the always-classy Nuge doesn’t throw anyone under the bus so I’ll let the Nation speculate who that was.
  • Friedman asks whether Nuge thinks that his career-best offensive season last year was over-looked. He credits Todd McLellan with improving his two-way game over the past two seasons, helping him with a better offensive output and striking a better balance between his scoring and defensive game.
  • Friedman also asked whether he’s had a face-to-face conversation with Ken Holland yet. Nuge hasn’t, but says that he has spoken to him on the phone and believes that his experience and rationale is going to be great for the team and will be that “steady guy [who isn’t] going to be pressured into making any rash decisions anytime soon; he’s one of those guys who knows what he’s doing, he’s confident in what he can do and that’s a huge thing for us.”
  • Friedman follows-up by asking as a “player who’s seen it all” over nearly a decade in Edmonton, what Nuge would say to Holland is the most important thing to the Oilers’ growth: Consistency! he answers: “… something that’s…  kinda been lacking over the tough years…”
    • the most interesting part here is that he acknowledges (as he puts it) this he’s been with “eight/nine coaches [heading] into [his] ninth year” and remarks that consistency has to start “from the top down.”
  •  Nuge follows this up by speaking about just having more consistency playing with “the same guy… build some chemistry… whether it’s one guy, whether it’s two guys… that’s something I haven’t really been able to do over the past few years years is find a linemate, even one linemate I can just stick with, I can build chemistry with…” He finishes that thought by believing that Holland is the kind of guy who can provide that for the team.
    • both Friedman and Marek are impressed with his answer to that.
  • Marek follows up by asking Nuge who he believes is his ideal linemate. Nuge still finds himself as a playmaker first, and looks for a guy who’s “in the right spot,” and that the line as a whole is “all connected,” which seems to mean all playing at the same pace. He concludes by saying a “fast, goal-scoring winger is something that [he] has always enjoyed playing with.”
  • Marek briefly mentions possibly playing with James Neal before asking who Nuge clicked with last season, mentioning Jujhar Khaira (and of course Connor). Nuge agrees that he felt good with Khaira, while also bringing up Jesse, acknowledging the chemistry between the three of them for almost ten games, and praised Khaira’s game for using his big frame to get to the puck and creating opportunities that way, but also crediting his hockey IQ and his ability at playing centre to understand what he needs to do to help Nuge out; they didn’t stay together as long as Nuge had hoped.
  • Regarding Pulujarvi, Friedman asks whether Nuge has texted him at all this summer whether or not he’s offered any help to “make all this better.” Nuge responds that he hasn’t, that he last talked to him “late last season.” He recognizes Jesse’s frustration but has an interesting comment with, “There’s going to be frustration pretty much any team you play for… you’re not always going to be able to play the top line minutes all times.” He quickly follows that up by “not saying who’s right and who’s wrong” and appreciating Jesse’s talent and size as “everything you need” but does say that his confidence can “go away” and concludes by saying that it’s too bad to see it go down this path because he could be a great guy and someone we could use a lot.”
  • They wrap things up by discussing Nuge’s style of play, with Marek asking him when he realized that after he’d been a prolific junior scorer, how soon he understood that he’d have to be a responsible defensive player as well at the NHL level: “Pretty quick as I got into the league I realized how important the defensive side was gonna be for me,” he responded, but then admits that he may have focused on that too much, and that while the team was struggling to score at certain points that he was “mostly focused on playing well defensively, [he] didn’t want to take any risks [or] play out of position.” He finishes by saying that he believes that his last two seasons he’s found a better balance with scoring and defensive responsibility, but still has defensive aspects that he needs to work on, specifically mentioning his face-off percentage and wanting it to get “around fifty (percent).”

The biggest thing that both Marek and Friedman took away from the interview was the Nuge’s call for consistency, and I’d have to agree. It’s something that all of us in the Nation have talked about in regards to the team as a whole, but particularly when it comes to Nuge and his linemates.

Friedman also finishes the segment off by saying perhaps it would be in Holland’s best interest to finish with another lottery pick this season (as hard as that might be for fans to hear) and discussing some Pulujarvi trade scenarios, reporting that he believed there were discussions with the Carolina Hurricanes for prospect Julien Gauthier and the Tampa Bay Lightning for Alexander Volkov, but that the Oilers want both a prospect and pick in return.

What are your thoughts on the interview? What was the most interesting thing that Nuge had to say?

(Listen to 31 Thought: The Podcasts anywhere podcasts are available; the lead-in to the interview starts at the 23:10 mark of the pod; the interview proper starts at 27:45)