NOTES: Nugent-Hopkins Has Exceeded Expectations So Far
By Michael Joachim
When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was drafted first overall, the Edmonton Oilers knew they were getting a future NHL superstar. The youngster is just 18 years old and was drawing comparisons to Wayne Gretzky for his outstanding vision on the ice while in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels.
After he was drafted, there were a few questions that arose concerning Nugent-Hopkins. First, would he be able to handle the rigors of an 82 game NHL season? Nugent-Hopkins weighs in at a meager 175 pounds. Many wondered if the physicality of the league would mean that he would need to spend another season in the WHL to put on some muscle. Some wondered if he would be better served to spend another season in the WHL to continue to gain more hockey experience before making the big jump to the NHL.
However, the Oilers not only had him on their opening night roster, but after the 9 game window they had to send him back to the WHL. They certainly made the right decision. While certainly his small size has its disadvantages, his speed and hockey skill have set him apart from other rookies so far this year. Often times Nugent-Hopkins has been the best forward on the ice for the Oilers and his play has allowed teammates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to continue to mature in the NHL.
So far this year, Nugent-Hopkins has excelled while recording 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in 28 games. RNH, as he is aptly nicknamed has 16 points in his last 10 games, picking up his game at the right time when Taylor Hall went down with a shoulder injury. He’s on pace to finish the season at 87 points, the best point total for a first overall draft pick in their rookie season since Sidney Crosby potted 102 after he was drafted.
What to expect the rest of the season from RNH? More of everything that he has already brought to the Edmonton Oilers in the first 30 games of his NHL career. He is the real deal and then some. Nugent-Hopkins is going to have a long and incredibly successful career. If he can manage to add some muscle without compromising his speed, he will become an even more dominant player than he already is.
The sky is the limit for RNH and the Edmonton Oilers have themselves a youngster to build their budding franchise around.