Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a member of the Edmonton Oilers for ten years now. He’s got a really good chance at finishing his career in Oiler colours, something most star players of the past don’t usually end up doing.
The first overall selection from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has had a very good, if not spectacular career for the Edmonton Oilers. Since being drafted, the Red Deer Rebel has put up 478 points in 656 career games, averaging .73 points per game. Nugent-Hopkins has played all over the top six; he’s been first line centre, second line centre, and has recently transitioned into an effective left wing in a top six with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl down the middle. He’s a valuable part of the Edmonton Oilers’ offence, and now has a brand new eight year contract as the Oilers try to make the push for a deep run in the playoffs.
I’ll admit I have a soft spot for Nugent-Hopkins in that he’s the longest tenured Oiler on the current club and he has seen some things. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has played with almost everyone that’s been an Oiler over the last decade. Teddy Purcell? Yep. Will Acton? Him too. Spending time between Milan Lucic and Alex Chiasson? You get the idea. Nugent-Hopkins has been asked to make chicken salad out of some interesting line combinations over the past decade, and he’s done well for himself in most circumstances.
Nugent-Hopkins’ numbers took a bit of a dip this past season, and it’s fair to warrant some concern about Nugent-Hopkins’ next year, and the next seven after that. Nugent-Hopkins did put up 35 points in just 52 games, numbers which were similar to his injury shortened 2015-16 campaign when he put up 34 points in 55 games. The total points isn’t terrible, or a disaster, or anything like that...it’s just that I thought there’d be more, especially after what we saw in 2019-20. Nugent-Hopkins’ P/60 was just 1.15 at evens, it averaged eleventh on the club. Compare this to 2.23 at evens in 2019-20, and it’s something to make you take pause. For a player that spent about 55% of his time with Connor McDavid while the club was 5 on 5, it’s easy to think that Nugent-Hopkins could have easily had 45 points this season.
It’s a pretty big departure for a guy who’s eaten well at even strength for the majority of his career. The question is: how much do you put into a 52 game stretch?
My answer: not a whole lot, at least, not yet.
One area that I wouldn’t worry too hard about is on the power play. Nugent-Hopkins averaged third on the club (behind the obvious two) in P/60 on the power play at over 5/60. As long as he keeps getting looks there, his points will follow. I don’t expect too much to change this year.
Like every other player in the league, a lot of what you think Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will do in 2021-22 is based on where in the lineup you think he’ll play. The Oilers are bringing in Zach Hyman to play up top with Connor McDavid in 2021-22, and I think that puts Ryan Nugent-Hopkins squarely on the second line with Leon Draisaitl and presumably Kailer Yamamoto if and when they get his Yamamoto’s contract squared away. While I think Nugent-Hopkins’ numbers will rebound a fair bit in 2021-22, I think it’s reasonable to think they might not regress all the way back to 2.23 without significant time on the top line.
It all comes down to even strength points. You either think he’ll average more than 1.15P/60 in 2021-22, or you do not think he will. Nugent-Hopkins averaged 1.96P/60 in the 3 years leading up to last season. If he’s in the top six, I think he’s got every chance in the world to get back close to that level. If he gets those 300 shots in like he did in 2019-20 at 12%, he’ll have 36 goals. I’d settle for about two-thirds of that.
I’ve got Ryan Nugent Hopkins putting up about 60 points, maybe a couple more. I think he will improve at even strength, and I think his power play numbers will stay lofty. I’ll say 62 points in 82 games, 25-37-62. There was at least some whispers about possibly putting him in at third line centre, this doesn’t strike me as very likely with Derek Ryan now in Edmonton for the time being. If he kicks out an 82 game season where he’s averaging just point per 60 minutes of ice time at even strength again, we’ll talk.
I think he’s got a real chance at outscoring new Oiler Zach Hyman, though I might be a bit bullish on how much Nugent-Hopkins’ will regress. I think he’s a major player in the top six this year, and his numbers will reflect as such.
Assume 82 games played. How many points will a healthy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins score in 2021-22?
This poll is closed
Less than 45
75 or greater