Monday, October 10, 2011
On Game 1 of 9 for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
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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