Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been in the NHL for 11 years.
Hard to believe, I know.
And for the first time in his NHL career, he truly had a short summer. After all, the longest-serving member of the Oilers just got to experience the deepest playoff run of his tenure,
“We took a step forward last year, so there is a lot of excitement coming back,” Nugent-Hopkins told media Tuesday. “It was the shortest summer I’ve ever had, so that’s obviously a good thing. I know the buzz around the room is excitement and we’re eager to get going again.
“If you look through the lineup, like you said, I think we’re as deep as a team I’ve ever been a part of. We keep getting better and more experienced. The longer we play together, the more we learn off each other and want to keep growing as a group.”
Coming into last year’s run, Nugent-Hopkins had only played in 21 playoff games scoring three goals and 14 points. In 2016-17, the Oilers went on a little run beating the San Jose Sharks in six games before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in seven.
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It was a tough run for Nugent-Hopkins, however. He scored just four points in 13 games and got crushed at 5×5 controlling just 22.22 percent of the goals scored, despite controlling 52.45 percent of the expected goal share. He had an astronomically low 93.5 PDO and a 2.31 on-ice shooting percentage which were to blame.
The 2019-20 “playoffs” were nothing short of embarrassing for the Oilers losing in four games. Nugent-Hopkins, however, lit them up scoring two goals and eight points in those four games. Still, his 5×5 goal share was just 36.36 percent with an expected goal share of 59.33. Once again, the PDO bug bit him with an even worse 87.5. This time, it was a .750 on-ice save percentage that plummeted those numbers.
He had a good, not great 2020-21 series against Winnipeg, but this past year he lit up the score sheet. In 16 games, Nugent-Hopkins scored six goals and 14 points scoring five of those tallies at 5×5. At 5×5, he went 9-10 GF-GA and posted a 47.27 expected goal share, so not horrible by any means.
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And against the Calgary Flames, Nugent-Hopkins had his moment.
In game four of that second-round series, the two clubs were tied halfway through the third period. With just over three minutes to go, Kailer Yamamoto circled behind the Flames’ net throwing a puck back to the point where Tyson Barrie unleashed a shot on net.
Jacob Markstrom wasn’t able to corral it, and Nugent-Hopkins banged home a loose puck that would not only give the Oilers the win but a key 3-1 series win.
I’m excited to see what Nugent-Hopkins can do this year with a full season of Jay Woodcroft. The coach took to the player well noting his importance not only at 5×5, but as a key contributor on the powerplay and penalty kill.
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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 [email protected]

#NATIONVACATION TO LAS VEGAS

  • When: On Thursday, January 12th, we’re jumping on a flight at the Edmonton International Airport and making our way to Vegas. On Sunday evening, we’ll fly back from Vegas to Edmonton. So the dates that you need to block off for this trip are January 12th to 15th.
  • Where we’re staying: After landing in LV, we’ll jump on the free shuttle and make our way to the Park MGM before settling in for a good night’s sleep. 😉
  • What you get: Your roundtrip flight, hotel, shuttle, viewing party (Friday night), game entry — we got seats this time (Saturday night), and exclusive entry into our pre-trip ‘get to know everyone’ event.
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1499 per person (based on double occupancy)
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.