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Monday, 12 December 2011

The Nuge

Hey everybody, happy Monday! There really isn't any big stories to blog about, so I thought it was time for another player profile post. Plus I'm not going to lie, I didn't catch any hockey this weekend! I've been meaning to blog about the young rookie in Edmonton who is setting the hockey world a buzz, so here we go;
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is today's player profile post.

Alright let's start by taking a look at the earlier part Nugent-Hopkins career. The 18 year old kid from British Columbia was taken first overall in the 2011 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins played his junior days for the Red Deer Rebels in the, WHL, he made his debut 2008-2009 and was the youngest player in the league, being under-age. In the 2009-2010 season Nugent-Hopkins won the WHL rookie of the year award, scoring 24 goals and adding 41 assists in 67 games. Before Nugent-Hopkins final season in junior, he was ranked 6th in depth for the 2011 NHL draft. He then went out and posted 31 goals and 75 assists for 106 points in 69 games, he quickly moved up the ranks to number 1. Interestingly enough Nugent-Hopkins only represented Canada once, in the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he was the leading scorer and an alternate captain for the team. He finished the tournament with 5 goals and 2 assists during the 5 game tournament. Despite all his success throughout junior he was cut from the 2011 Canadian World Junior Championship team. Nugent-Hopkins was the Oilers 2nd straight first overall pick in the draft, with Taylor Hall being drafted first overall in the 2010 draft; Nugent-Hopkins joins an Oilers team filled with young talent; Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Gagner and Teubert so Nugent-Hopkins should be able to fit right into the mix. Despite his being taken first overall there was some discussion that the Oilers would keep him around or send him back to the minors. The Oilers insisted they were not going to rush Nugent-Hopkins development, by rushing him into the NHL, based on the way the Oilers were talking I thought Nugent-Hopkins would be starting the season in the minors. Despite being 6'1" he needs to hit the weight room this off season and put on some more muscle; 175 pounds isn't going to cut it for the "Nuge" as he gets shoved off the puck a little too easy, right now he is getting away with it, due to his offence and the fact that he is a rookie. But if he expects to stay around the league for the foreseeable future, he needs to put on some weight and bulk up.

On October 28th it was made official that the Oilers would keep Nugent-Hopkins up in the NHL for the remainder of his rookie season. He has not disappointed and has adapted quite well to the NHL (playing on a line with Hall and Eberle doesn't hurt either!) “Right when I came in, the guys kind of took me in and made me feel really comfortable here,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “So going to a team like this, where they do that, it really helped me out a ton. Playing with the guys I’ve been playing with, it’s just been huge for me. They make things so much easier.” Through 30 games this season, Nugent-Hopkins has put up 32 points; with 13 goals and 19 assists he leads the Oilers in goals and points. The 18 year old who has been dubbed "The Nuge" around the league, is having a pretty decent rookie season, and is on pace for a point per game season, something only Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin have done in their rookie campaigns. Nugent-Hopkins is already being compared to the great-one who wore #99 for the Oilers, Wayne Gretzky.“When I hear them, it’s kind of funny to hear,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Wayne Gretzky is obviously the greatest hockey player who ever played, so I don’t think you can really compare me to him, but it is nice to hear." Nugent-Hopkins is on top of the list for the Calder Trophy which is awarded to the best rookie, and is looking like a shoe in to win it. His play has helped put the Oilers back into contention for their first playoff appearance since 2006. “I’m getting a little bit more comfortable,” said Nugent-Hopkins. On top of everything that "The Nuge" has accomplished, he also has won back-to-back NHL rookie of the month awards for October and November, becoming only the 2nd player to ever do so. He has even already recorded an NHL hat trick. He is greatly responsible for bringing excitement back to the city Edmonton over their hockey team, as they are finally performing well, and my even earn themselves a spot in the post season. With the likes of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle watching the Oilers has become exciting again. I've even found myself staying up till 11pm to watch the amazing stuff these guys can do on the ice. I've never been a big fan of the Oilers, but watching these guys is just amazing. Tom Renney was recently forced to play him on both the 1st and 2nd Power Play units in a 4-1 win over the Avalanche. The only aspect of Nugent-Hopkins game that needs a little work is his defencive play, he still plays D like he is in the juniors, Which is to say he doesn't. Right now Nugent-Hopkins is responsible for 9.70% of his teams mistakes that have lead to opposing teams having scoring chances. With all of his mistakes, he has been lucky he's basically averaging 1 goal against for every 15 mistakes. This means his defencive play needs to improve drastically by next season. It's not a huge deal at the moment, but it could cost him and the Oilers one day.

It can be extremely easy for a young kid to get lost in the NHL, with the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin and the Sedins but Nugent-Hopkins is really starting to turn heads not only with the Oilers but around the league as well; "Keep it going, kid. It's remarkable," Renney said. "He makes it looks so easy, but it's hard," captain Shawn Horcoff. Nugent-Hopkins is on pace for 90 points and the best rookies season since Sidney Crosby in 2004. Based on how #1 picks have performed and turned into franchise players; Crosby, Ovechkin, Tavares and Stamkos, it isn't that farfetched that Nugent-Hopkins would have a solid season and a solid future, but he is having an amazing rookie season, most people didn't see this coming; Heck I thought he'd be in the minors to start off the season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going to have quite a good career, and may even lead the Oilers back to the post-season; the most important thing for Nugent-Hopkins is to not let all the success and com parable's go to his head, he still needs to keep putting the puck in the net and racking up points, but remember we're only 30 games in, a lot can still happen. One thing for sure is that Nugent-Hopkins is going to have a an amazing career in the NHL. 

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