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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - #3 In The Top 25 Under 25

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The Top 25 Under 25 continues with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

USA TODAY Sports

As we've gotten to the high end if the Top 25 Under 25 I've found myself saying, "Wow, player X is only number Y" a lot. Of course not all 25 of the prospects we've looked at have been of the sure fire can't miss variety but the high end talent on this team is remarkable. I've yet to accept the rebuild as necessary, or even a logical course of action, but even I can't argue with the fact that it's allowed the Oilers to acquire some very elite talent. How else can you explain a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins only coming in at number three.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan
Ben
Bruce
DB
Derek
Jon Michael Ryan Scott
2 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 93/04/13
1 2011 2 5 2 5 5 2 5 2 3

Previous Rank: 2

Looking at the rankings you can see that there is very little agreement on Nugent-Hopkins with rankings ranging from two to five. This was true last summer too when the rankings varied from one first place vote to a couple of fours. Playing in just his second NHL season there are still more questions than answers with Nugent-Hopkins but I'm very optimistic about his future.

Derek has shown that its Taylor Hall , not Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle who drives the play when the Oilers Young Guns are sent over the boards together. This fits with what I see as we'll but it doesn't mean Nugent-Hopkins is a bad player either. As a rookie, a combination of sheltered minutes and friendly percentages led to some great looking counting numbers. This season the shelter is gone and the numbers have fallen off a little but I would argue that Nugent-Hopkins is playing a better overall game this season.

Nugent-Hopkins won't turn 20 for another few weeks, around the same time that he'll - baring an injury - play his 100th game in the NHL and yet he's been going toe-to-toe with the best forwards the opposition has on an almost nightly basis. And he's coming out ahead more often than not. It's not always pretty but there are very few teenagers in the NHL who can do what Nugent-Hopkins does. This is, at least I think it is, very encouraging.

When Nugent-Hopkins was drafted everyone focused on his offensive abilities, and with good reason. But Nugent-Hopkins has shown this season that he can play a well rounded two zone game as well. Centres carry a heavy load defensively in the NHL and Nugent-Hopkins is showing regularly that he more than up to the challenge. It's not the kind of thing that shows up in the counting numbers but if you watch Nugent-Hopkins closely you'll see a player working hard to be dependable in his own end.

If there is a criticism of Nugent-Hopkins it's likely that the focus in his own end has seemingly come at the expense of his point totals. A few more goals and a couple of assists would be nice but those percentages which were so beneficial last season have gone the opposite way this season. That happens sometimes, there's no need to panic. The real Nugent-Hopkins will be back soon.

Check out the complete Top 25 Under 25 List in our

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