Monday, October 24, 2011
The Oilers have so far played 5 games at Rexall and 2 games as the visitor this young season. Although this isn't a large sample size to examine, the numbers for RNH in blue versus white are interesting. In 5 home games, Nugent-Hopkins is 5-2-7 with a +3 rating, while in his 2 road games, he's 0-0-0 with a -1 rating. Another interesting discrepancy is in his faceoff %. At Rexall he's 29.2%, which is not very impressive as it is, but on the road he's even worse at 15.4%, possibly due to the fact that he's required to put his stick down first. The coaching staff has already addressed this issue by having Shawn Horcoff take the draws on the powerplay and Horcoff or Belanger taking his defensive zone faceoffs, with the only drawback being the cost of his ice time. Clearly home ice advantage has played a big part in RNH's early offensive production this year. Having Tom Renney be able to pick and choose when to send out Kid Line 2.0 definitely puts Nugent-Hopkins in the position to succeed. However, If RNH is going to develop into a consistent NHL threat, he will need to learn how to produce on the road. Although with the great hockey sense he possesses, it should only be a matter of time before those numbers even out. Unfortunately for Oilers management, games 8 and 9 are both at Rexall Place and they will have to make a decision on the fate of RNH with only those two road games in mind.
Road woes or not, it's becoming more and more clear that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is ready for the show. He's creating chances more often than not, he's only been on the ice for one even strength goal against, and he's quaterbacking a much improved Oilers powerplay. More importantly RNH has shown that he can rise to the challenge and elevate his game when called out. Twice this season he's been benched by the coaching staff late in the third period of games, and twice he's bounced back the next game with a strong showing, scoring a hat trick in one and the game winner in the other. Consistency is something that all NHL rookies struggle with early, it took Taylor Hall nearly 25 games last season to find his, but the ability to recognize and learn from mistakes and improve upon them is important for a player trying to find that consistency. Tom Renney has always stated that the decision on RNH will be based on his entire body of work, and so far that body of work would suggest that he'll be in an Oilers uniform in Colorado on October 28th in game 10 of the regular season.
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Monday, October 10, 2011
Nugent-Hopkins certainly did not look out of place skating on the top line and the first unit powerplay. He showed off his great vision and passing and set up Hall and Hemsky with a few good chances. Even 5-on-5 he was able to play his game and didn't look outmatched physically. The puck seemed to follow him around the ice all night. As for the special teams, having both Hemsky and Nugent-Hopkins playing together on the powerplay was successful in creating another point of attack. Teams in the past knew that the man advantage for the Oilers was run through Hemsky, allowing them to concentrate their efforts on him. But now having another solid puck mover on the half boards adds another threat to the powerplay. While, they didn't score with the man advantage last night, it certainly looked better than it did last year already. It's still early in the season but let's hope that it's a sign of things to come as the powerplay will need to be effective if the Oilers are going to end up on the right side of these 1-goal games more often than not this year.
Of course it wasn't all positives for Nugent-Hopkins last night. His numbers in the faceoff dot were terrible. He finished the night at a measly 13.3% on the draw. While 5-on-5 the Oilers can rely on Horcoff, Belanger, and Lander in the dot, on the powerplay, Nugent-Hopkins will need to improve or else the Oilers will be starting every man advantage by chasing the puck back into their own zone. However winning faceoffs is a skill that can be taught and improved, and luckily for Nugent-Hopkins he should have a few good teachers to learn from on this roster.
Overall it was an impressive debut for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and if he plays the next 8 games like he did against the Penguins, his spot on the roster should be a lock.
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