RE 11-12: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

First of all, I’d like to remind you that the title of this series of posts is “reasonable expectations.” Adding up all the the good arrows (first overall pick, 100+ points in his 17-year old season, almost universal agreement from the “saw him good” crowd that he’s the best prospect from this draft year) with the bad arrows (not mature physically, another early contract) and coming out with a reasonable conclusion.


The day Steve Tambellini called his name, RNH was about 150 days younger than Taylor Hall was on his draft day, and I believe that is the biggest down arrow when looking at this young man’s NHL chances this fall. On the other side of the ledger is an organization that has shown a willingness to graduate all junior age hockey players capable of posting offense.

My guess is that the Oilers play RNH for 9 games and then keep playing him (save for possibly the WJ’s) throughout the schedule. It’s a guess, I’m not a mind reader and the Oilers braintrust will have the final say. My prediction is that RNH will not approach 50 points in his NHL debut but will play

  • Hall in draft year: 57, 40-66-106 (1.86 ppg)
  • RNH in draft year: 69, 31-75-106 (1.54 ppg)

NHL prediction for 11-12: 63gp, 11-23-34 (.540) 

  1. Who was the last forward who went number one overall to go back to junior? Mike Modano from the 1988 draft. Right around that time Eric Lindros, Mats Sundin and Modano all ended up outside the NHL the year they were drafted. It was 23-25 years ago. Most people point to Modano as the RNH comparable because they both played in the CHL and the Lindros-Quebec bad blood is still so famous. People point to Modano as a guy who had to go back to junior even though he was chosen first overall.
  2. He wasn’t good enough? No, he was certainly good enough to play based on the numbers and the league he played in. There was a contract squabble and he didn’t sign in time. He was already back playing for the Prince Albert Raiders by the time the North Stars got him signed.
  3. I thought he was an American? Yeah, he is. But Modano (and Chelios, and many others) felt the best way to ready themselves for the NHL was the CHL.
  4. Says you. No, here’s an article confirming Modano’s reasons for the path he chose.
  5. So they signed him in December. Why didn’t they bring him up? Rules.
  6. So Modano isn’t comparable? No. It’s a completely different situation. Modano’s reasons for not playing had mostly to do with contract; that was not terribly unusual in that era btw, teams were constantly fighting with their best players and top draft picks over money.
  7. Well I’ve seen and heard a lot of people saying that RNH may go back to junior and that’s good because it helped Modano. Yeah, I’ve heard that too.
  8. You said earlier that sending him back after 9 games was an option. I still think it’s an option. Look, I don’t think it matters what Minnesota did back then, they weren’t run by Hall of Fame managers and that club botched a lot during the 80′s.
  9. Okay, let’s talk about your projected numbers. They’re not good enough. Hold on a sec, I’ll change them. Is 100 points enough?
  10. Why are they so low. Is it because you’re a dink? You asked that question last year.
  11. Yeah but this time I mean it. Okay, let me take you through my math. His NHLE is 82, 11-27-38 (.463) but I don’t think he’s going to play every game. The world juniors, watching a few nights from the gondola, I believe he’ll miss about 20 games. That would put him (based on NHLE) about 29 points. I gave him a little push because I think the organization will give him a little push.
  12. He’s behind Taylor Hall’s numbers. Which I think is fair. I believe we’ll be impressed with RNH’s wild skills, but the underlying numbers (things like PP/points per 60) won’t knock anyone’s socks off.
  13. Who would you compare him too from history? Hmmm. Maybe Robin Yount.
  14. Why can’t you just list some hockey player? Hey, Yount is a good comparable. Articles here, here and here give a nice look at what life was like for Robin Yount 1974 spring. Not terribly different from RNH.
  15. Did he have a huge rookie season? No. He hit .250, 3 homers and played in 107 games. Made 19 errors. Looked like the bag boy at Safeway all year long.
  16. You remember him? I had his baseball card.
  17. So they should have kept him in A ball? I don’t think so. He survived and the following season took one giant leap forward.
  18. So you’re saying there’s a silver lining? I said this last summer when Taylor Hall’s future was being discussed: if the player can clearly play at this level then you keep him and put him in a position to succeed.
  19. It ruined Sam Gagner. He sucks now. Gagner’s fine. If the Oilers hadn’t flushed the last couple of seasons and provided support for the Gagner group this team would be farther along. As it is, he’s improving despite the roster.
  20. Where does RNH slide onto the roster? Well, I’d say he’ll get very good linemates. Hall-Eberle, Smyth-Hemsky, Paajarvi-Omark or some combination of the three. At a guess I’d say that he and Hall get some time together–maybe with Eberle–and that if the line has success the Oilers will run with it. He’ll be a featured player.
  21. What about faceoffs? What about faceoffs? Horcoff and Belanger are there to take own zone faceoffs, I doubt RNH takes a single important faceoff in his own end for a long, long time.
  22. Renney likes to roll 4 lines. Renney rolled 4 lines last season because that was clearly the plan. And even then he protected kids when he needed to (look at VandeVelde’s late season callup). If they use the Kid Line I mentioned above he’ll have to protect them at home and do his best on the road. RNH lining up against the Sedins for an own-zone faceoff won’t sit well with the coach I’m sure.
  23. How can he avoid that matchup? At home no worries. On the road, spot the rookie and perhaps give him a game in the rafters to observe.  
  24. One final question: you have RNH’s falling well behind Sam Gagner’s rookie numbers. Why? Sam Gagner played 1238 minutes as an NHL rookie. Taylor Hall played 1,004 minutes as an NHL rookie. RNH is going to get around 900 by my estimate. That’s a lot of playing time this kid isn’t going to get. If he does, then his numbers will be better. This post is trying to find reasonable.
  25. Reasonable is pretty tough with this team. Amen.
  26. What don’t you want to see? RNH playing in front of subpar goaltending. That would be a crime. He’s going to bleed chances, for criminy sakes let’s not let him post a -40.

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