I've been taking some heat from fans (and Bruce...and Scott) who think I'm far too bearish on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, especially after his hot start to the season. After all, Hopkins has 13 points (7 goals) in 16 games and has been scintillating in the offensive zone. Part of that hot start is due to shooting percentage - his .233 percentage isn't sustainable - and part of it is due to the work Tom Renney has done to put Hopkins into favorable positions and situations. The rest is due to Hopkins' exquisite abilities with the puck.
But I'm still bearish on the youngster's complete game right now. Constant comments about his thievery gloss over his overall struggles in the defensive zone and the pesky fact that the he, along with linemates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, tend to get stuck in their own zone quite often. It's more apparent on the road where, thanks to the last change, opposing coaches have targeted Hopkins with their best line much more often.
16 games into the season, the Oilers have played 8 home games and 8 away games. The kid line has been very good at home, but the road struggles show up in the underlying numbers in a stark manner.
Hopkins has been protected both through zonestarts and limiting his faceoffs. His zonestart numbers show he's started over 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone both at home and on the road.
DZ - player on ice for defensive zone faceoff; OZ - player on ice for defensive zone faceoff; NZ - player on ice for defensive zone faceoff; Opct - percentage of faceoffs taken in the offensive zone.
The strategy has paid off at home, but Hopkins is being targeted on the road. The raw Corsi numbers show how much of a difference home games make for the kid:
Adjust his Corsi for his zonestarts:
The rookie has had a tough go of it on the road and it's going to continue as long as Tom Renney sticks with the Hall-Hopkins-Eberle line while the Oilers are away from home.