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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins set to play in Game 7 of Stanley Cup Finals 13 years to the day after Oilers draft him first overall

Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Photo credit:Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
25 days ago
It was 13 years ago today that the Edmonton Oilers drafted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall.
And tonight, he will play in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Nugent-Hopkins has come a long way since the then six-foot, 174 lb. centre was selected out of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. He’s found ways to punch above his weight class — figuratively and literally — by taking the toughest assignments early on in his career.
It wasn’t always pretty, but he always found his way to be a contributor.
Things began to change when Connor McDavid rolled into town, and Nugent-Hopkins had a few years where his offensive game took a step backwards. However, shifting to McDavid’s wing in 2017-18 is when Nugent-Hopkins’ game began to take a big step forward.
He started to find offence easier than before, and in 2018-19, scored career highs in goals, assists and points, with 28, 41 and 69, respectively. A year later in a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, his scoring rates continued to climb being a near point per game player in the 65 games he played.

A June 25, 2011 article from the Edmonton Journal highlights the Oilers selection of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall.

In June 2021, he came off of his seven-year, $6-million AAV deal he signed all the way back in 2013. It didn’t take much work for a deal to be done, as he ended up signing an eight-year deal at $5.125-million, keeping him locked up in Edmonton through the 2028-29 season, when he will be 35 years old.
And in 2022-23, it happened: he finally hit the offensive peak the Oilers had so hoped he would at some point in his career. He racked up 37 goals and 104 points that season, far and away his most productive campaign. Everything he touched turned to gold, racking up points on the power play and at even-strength.
While he didn’t get back to those levels this season, he’s had one of his most complete seasons in the league still providing offence and driving play at even-strength, but also being a part of a penalty kill unit that’s done things unheard of in the playoffs.
When his career is all said and done, he will likely go down as the Oilers all-time leader in regular season games played, currently just 156 back of tying Kevin Lowe’s 1,037 he played for the franchise. Nugent-Hopkins has already worked his way into the top 10 for goals (251, eighth), assists (448, eighth) and points (699, seventh), and will further climb those ranks the longer his career goes on.
The Oilers have Kept Nuge Forever, and he will go down as one of the franchises greatest players.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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