Last year at this time, I was all but certain that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be dealt for swamp water in an effort to dump cap. We’re nearing the end of July, and he’s still here. That’s good news for the Oilers.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found himself in a variety of situations during the 2017-18 NHL season. He would open the 2017-18 season on the second line alongside Milan Lucic and Kailer Yamamoto. He’d finish it on the top line alongside Connor McDavid on the left wing. He finished third on the team in scoring with 48 points (24-24-48) in 64 games after missing some time with cracked ribs. And in 2018-19? He’s got a real opportunity to tear things up on that top line.
If only they were all that easy.
FROM DOWN THE MIDDLE TO THE LEFT
Once Patrick Maroon was juggled around the lineup (and eventually, to New Jersey), Nugent-Hopkins finally got put on McDavid’s left wing late in the 2017-18 season. And it was good, very good. I’d like to see about 80 games of it this season coming up.
A healthy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the top line has a fairly good sized chance to break the 60 point mark for the first time in his career. After Todd McLellan put him on the top line, Nugent-Hopkins he spent thirteen games alongside McDavid. The results? 15 points (7-8-15). Small sample size? Sure. I like my odds that Nugent-Hopkins can keep producing.
HOW CAN RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS HAVE A CAREER HIGH 2018-19?
A couple of ways.
- The more time he spends on the top line, the better it’s going to be for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the Oilers. I’m not too sure that there will be very many goals like the one above in 2018-19, but you can be sure that your stock will likely take a tick upward the more time you spend on a line with Connor McDavid. Having Nugent-Hopkins spend time on the first line means that he’s not second centre, which means that Leon is running the show on line two. While I’m not opposed to Leon and McDavid reuniting for short bursts, the Oilers’ offence should greatly benefit from two scoring lines with Connor on line one, and Leon on line two.
- An injury free season helps things immensely. Last year’s cracked ribs set him back a bit. Nugent-Hopkins had a healthy 2016-17, but missed time due to injury the year prior and the year after.
- Power play time: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins averaged sixth overall in power play time per game in 2017-18. You will not be surprised to learn that Milan Lucic averaged more power play time per game than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Am I rushing to judgment based on thirteen games? Maybe. Who else is better suited to be on the top line left wing? Forgive me if I’m not wild about Milan Lucic in that spot. If the Oilers are headed into the 2018-19 season as the roster stands today, the club is best suited to run with 93 and 97 on top.
Season starts in 69 days, let’s go.
Assume 82 games played. How many points will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins score in 2018-19?
This poll is closed