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The Nuge: He’s a Winner

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Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
10 months ago
Watching Zach Hyman pluck the puck out of the Anaheim Ducks net with a big, sloppy grin on his face Wednesday after his goal to make it 3-1 was a memorable moment for the Edmonton Oilers on the way to their sixth straight win for so many reasons.
Most obvious was the buzz created by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hitting 100 points for the first time in his 12-year NHL career with a second assist on Hyman’s goal to lock up the win and bump the Oilers to 103 points. They’re 47-23-9 with three games to go and a full-on push for a Western Conference title still alive.
On top of that, the play that produced the 3-1 goal provided a quick thumbnail of how good the top end of the Oilers roster has been all season in pushing this edition of the team to where it’s at. They’re one point back of last season’s total and within three points of the 106 points the team compiled in 1986-87 on the way to a third Stanley Cup. 
Second-assist man RNH sits at 36-64-100. Career year by a whopping 31 points. Primary assist man Connor McDavid leads NHL scoring with 62-86-148. Career year by 25 points. Hyman’s empty-netter was his 35th goal, leaving him with 35-46-81. Career year by 27 points. Leon Draisaitl didn’t get in on Hyman’s goal or on the scoresheet. He’s at 51-72-123 with a third 50-goal season in the books. A career year by 13 points. You get the drift.

THE TOP END

Apr 5, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrate the empty net goal scored by left wing Zach Hyman (18) against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at Honda Center. McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins each provided an assist on the goal. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
There’s more to the 26-5-6 record (.784) the Oilers have put together since Jan. 11 than McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH and Hyman – improved goaltending and defensive play plus a historically good power play account for a big part of the momentum we’re seeing – but that top end has really been something.
“I never really thought I’d get to it to be honest, but I’m definitely proud to be able to do it with this group,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I get to play with some amazing players throughout the lineup. We have such a good team in here and we’ve got steps that we want to keep taking, but definitely just proud to do something like this with this group.”
Typically modest was Nugent-Hopkins, who has quietly climbed several categories in the franchise record books since the Oilers took him first overall at the 2011 Entry Draft. At 29, he’s fifth in games played at 798, eighth in goals with 232, ninth in assists with 396 and ninth in points at 628. 
“I can tell you that I’ve seen a lot of growth in his game this year, not just in the points,” coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Getting to 100 points is so special, but he’s used in every situation. He flies a little bit under the radar because we have some other special players here as well.
“But you know what? He’s certainly appreciated by his coaching staff and his teammates because he’s a winner. He does a lot of little things that go into team wins, and we’re lucky that we have him on our team.”

THE YEAR OF NUGE TEE!

You knew we would have a t-shirt dialed in an ready to go as soon as RNH hit 100 points, and here it is!

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