Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a splendid example of Edmonton’s future and I believe he’ll serve the team very well in a two-way role for the rest of this decade and beyond. I imagine somewhere about 2017 a commentator will call him ‘the best 2line C in the league’ and that will be his calling card. Nuge, right from the start it seems, was destined to play in the shadow of another. Doesn’t matter to me, he’s the modern Dave Keon and you cannot get a higher grade in my books (unless you’re the modern Bobby Orr and I’m waiting). It’s not certain to me what role he’ll play this season, as McDavid finds his way into the NHL—Nuge will eventually settle in as the two-way man, the Datsyuk, but there’s likely to be a period of transition as McDavid pushes toward some great new dawn. No play is ever completely over, no pursuit is broken when Nuge comes to town. Humble, brilliant, and he just turned 22.
People have underestimated him from pretty much the beginning (there are STILL fans waiting on him to score 50 points in a season) and at least twice a year someone will state “he’s not going to be Datsyuk” without realizing Datsyuk arrived in the NHL fall of 2001 when he was 23 years old and two months. Nuge will be that age in JUNE OF 2016, we can BEGIN to compare them at that time. The Nuge is a helluva player.
His 22 EV goals put him in a tie for No. 13 overall in 2014-15 (tied with Ryan Getzlaf and Zach Parise). Nuge at 20 scored .7 points per game, Toews was .841. Nuge at 21 scored .7 points per game, Toews was .895. Toews at 22? .95 points per game. Will Nuge get there? Well, he may not get the PP time and one imagines Taylor Hall will play with Connor McDavid, but RNH with Pouliot—Eberle should be able to post some fine EV numbers and he could easily spike his PP number in the coming season.
“If there is any player in the NHL that I would like to become, it’s Pavel Datysuk. He has amazing offensive skills but is also someone that the coach can put on in the last 30 seconds in a one goal game because he is also very defensive minded. He is the complete 2-way player”. –Connor McDavid, when asked if there was anyone in the NHL he looks at and says ‘that’s the player I’d like to become’? (2012 interview)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, at 22, is a vital part of Edmonton’s future. As performer, as mentor, as a brilliant reminder that greatness and humility can walk hand in hand. Incredibly, Connor McDavid appears to be cut from the same cloth. Has a team ever had two humble superstars?