The Day After 79.0: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hits 100 points as Edmonton Oilers down Anaheim Ducks 3-1
Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing8 months ago
It’s been a long, arduous road to greatness for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Drafted out of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 draft stood at 6’0 and 164 lbs. — and that’s probably with ankle weights on, too. He’s barely put on weight since then, and his face hasn’t changed a bit.
And much like it, his willingness to be great never faded. When he stepped into the league things were bleak in Edmonton. That 2011-12 season saw him as the No. 2 center behind Shawn Horcoff. He was an easy target for other teams who figured they could constantly overmatch the rookie.
Nugent-Hopkins, however, always found a way to persevere. He scored 18 goals and 52 points in his rookie year — a .84 PPG pace he wouldn’t touch again until 2018-19. But now, 12 years after the Oilers drafted him, he’s eclipsed a milestone so many never expected: 100 points in a season.
It truly came out of nowhere. After all, we’re talking about Nugent-Hopkins heading into this season on the backs of an 11-goal 2021-22 season which was the lowest since he scored just four goals in 2012-13. his season year in the league. He had hit a career-high in points in the 2018-19 season scoring 28 goals, 41 assists and 69 points, but those were all numbers the forward didn’t touch until this season.
And last night, he hit the century-point mark cashing an assist on Zach Hyman’s empty-net goal. It was a weird night as a whole for the Oilers on the second half of a back-to-back, and you could see it. I thought the team as a whole looked sluggish at times but they managed to stay in the game. In the end, they got the two points and from a game perspective, beyond getting Nugent-Hopkins to 100 points, is all that mattered.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
Seeing Nugent-Hopkins hit the century mark really was a pinch me moment last night. He’s long been one of my favourite players to watch because you know what you’re getting out of him every single night, and you’ve always been able to say that. While he’s never been a physical presence or someone to get into a game that was, you’ve always known that he was going to go out there and work his tail off in all three zones. For a long time it was all for naught, but this is a guy who couldn’t be more deserving of such a milestone.
He has been through it over the last 12 years with the Oilers and it’s not been an easy road. There were some terrible teams in the early 2010’s, and it’s taken the organization a long time to build something around him. And when he could’ve pushed the Oilers for a big payday on June 2021 when his contract was up, he instead inked an incredibly friendly eight-year, $5.125-million contract. He’s an Oiler for life.
It’s not just the fact that he played on some terrible teams, either. He was constantly trotted out and asked to go up against top competition on a night-in and night-out basis. We’re talking about the likes of guys like Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, and Anze Kopitar. Not just great players, but players with massive frames as well. Yet night in and night out, Nugent-Hopkins could always be found fighting with these guys — and others — in any inch of the ice.
The Oilers find themselves in a great position after Wednesday night’s win. They now sit second in the Pacific Divison and the Western Conference with 103 points, one point being the Vegas Golden Knights. According to OilerAlert, the Oilers need to go 2-0-1 or better in their final three games against San Jose twice and the Colorado Avalanche. They will also need Vegas to go at worst .500. They play LA tonight, Dallas Saturday then Seattle in a home-and-home next Tuesday and Thursday.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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