Rank: Number one across the boad
We’ve discussed this player for some time, and he is now an Edmonton Oiler.
Redline Report: Nugent-Hopkins has the highest offensive upside and is the most potent playmaker of the bunch. He’ll struggle to handle the physicality of the NHL over a grueling 82-game season since his current walking around weight is a slightly built 163 pounds. But he is gritty and willing to battle in traffic and stand up for himself, so he’ll eventually get there. One thing he has shown is a consistent ability to elevate his game at the biggest moments.
TSN (Grant McCagg): Had a slow start in terms of goal production, including going goalless in 13 games in October, but ended the 2010-11 season with 17 goals in his final 20 games after being cut from Canada’s U-20 team. Strengths - high end skills, including amazing vision and agility. Quick elusive skater with superb edges. Soft hands and creative puck handler. Solid work ethic and character. Weaknesses - Needs to add some muscle to compete with NHL defencemen in tight quarters. More of a playmaker than a goal scorer, although he began showing more finish at season’s end. NHL Upside - first-line center who draws comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk in terms of style.
Kirk Luedeke: Outstanding skater with explosive burst, top-end speed, excellent lateral agility and superb edgework. Shifty, with quick feet and the ability to accelerate rapidly over short spaces. Elite stickhandler; can make any play at top speed or in traffic when there isn’t much time or space. Soft touch on the puck for on-target passes. Can thread the needle through a maze of skates and sticks to hit the open man. Lightning release with a bullet shot that is accurate. Will pick corners at will. Hides his release point well and confounds goalies with his ability to get the puck on net from just about anywhere. Off-the-charts hockey sense- puck follows him around the ice. Always in the middle of the action and makes quick cuts to open up room for his linemates. The most creative player in the draft and a deadly scorer with the man advantage. Makes everyone around him better. Leads by example with his hustle and work ethic. Never quits on the play. Will initiate contact and not afraid to take the hit to make the play. Good character kid- wants to be a leader and has game-breaking ability to put his team on his shoulders at any given time.
Most of the debate on this player for the next couple of months will be about NHL readiness. As with Taylor Hall, I believe if he’s ready the Oilers should keep him. Suspect he’ll get the 9-game audition.