You know, 35 points in 40 games is well beyond the expectations that I and others set for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before the season. Yet a lot of the verbal on this site has exposed some of the softness in the data. Nugent-Hopkins has shot 16%, a number that just four players have bested over the long haul since 2005-06. His ratio of OZ and DZ starts is one of the most favorable in the league, partly because he's young and inexperienced, partly because it's becoming the fashion of the day to put offensive players into offensive situations, and partly because his 37.2% even strength faceoff percentage would be the third-worst season since the lockout if it keeps up. Then there are the dreaded bubble charts, where his rookie season is behind Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall at the same age, and behind his draft peers in terms of driving possession at evens. Oh, and he's hurt his shoulder too.
But after the jump, I'll lay that to one side, and talk a little bit about what's gone right.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
The first place to look for improvement is the rankings. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is your favorite prospect, you can be assured that Derek doesn't hate him anymore, moving him up three places from sixth to third. And why is that? Because despite all of the aforementioned problems, Nugent-Hopkins is still kicking expectations in the teeth.
Before the season started, I came up with a list of comparables for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and as many of you predicted before the season, Nugent-Hopkins is killing them. Here's how each player did in the year after his draft year, adjusting offense to this year's level of 5.33 goals scored per game:
One of just four guys who went straight to the NHL, and nearly double the offense of his nearest competitor. Yeah, the guys we're comparing him to probably didn't have the same opportunities as Nugent-Hopkins, but you can let an awful lot of air from the tires before it's even close.
And before we turn all of that power play time into a negative, let's not forget that the success that Nugent-Hopkins has found on the power play has been somewhat unique (the "injuries permitting" tag on the end of Tyler's article turned out to be ominous). Granted, the shot rate on the Oilers' shot-rate during five-on-four with Nugent-Hopkins on the ice leaves a lot to be desired (47.7 shots for per sixty minutes would be just middle of the pack when compared to other teams and well short of most first-unit power plays), we know that, as with most things, rookies tend to struggle with power play time and get better with more experience.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may not be perfect, but he's very good, and is an excellent bet to be an impact player for years to come.