Nugent-Hopkins at the draft - Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Should Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Suit Up For The Oilers In 2011-12?

We’ve got the YoungStars tournament beginning on Sunday lasting into the middle of next week, and it’s the first time we’ll all be able to see the newest bagel out of the oven in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Nugent-Hopkins looks to have a long and rewarding career in the National Hockey League, and after five lonely years out of the playoffs, it’s an understandable position to want to rush him into the league ASAP in a madcap effort to have him score 5600 goals this season.

But…just hold onto that idea for a minute.

Taylor Hall- a first round pick in 2010

Magnus Paajarvi- a first round pick in 2009

Jordan Eberle- a first round pick in 2008

Remember all the hype about these guys last year?  Couldn’t wait to get them into the league, and after the season that was 2009-10, I really don’t blame any of you.  One of the benefits of finishing consistently near or at the bottom of the barrel is having a good chance at drafting a quality NHL player.  I’m pretty confident that the Oilers did this well three times with the names you see above.

Another last place finish in 2010-11, and we’ve found another player in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Should the book hold true on Nugent-Hopkins, he’ll hopefully enjoy a long and productive NHL career in Oiler colours.

Let’s put our heads together for a minute.  I know you want to get him into the league as soon as possible, but you see those three guys that we just talked about?  They’re all going to have contracts due in two years.  Say Taylor Hall becomes a bonafide superstar in those two years.  Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi will likely continue to grow over the next seven hundred days.

Where does that leave us?  If the team wants to keep all three players as I suspect (God help me if they deal Eberle or Hall), then the club is going to have to dish out some ducats in order to keep them around.  I’m not even going to speculate what it will cost to keep that trio around, but let’s say it’ll cost more than a couple of season ticket packs.

The Oilers are going to spend a bunch of money to keep those guys around, and that’s expected.  We’re getting nearer to the point that the Oilers shouldn’t have to be picking in the top five every year from here until 2020, and the fan base has every right to expect a payoff sometime in the near future.

In a salary cap world, it makes no sense to rush along Ryan Nugent-Hopkins unless we’re sure the Oilers are ready to make some noise in the West this year.  Volcanoes won’t erupt if he begins on the squad this year, but the club runs a high risk of being hamstrung when it comes to Nugent-Hopkins’ contract in three years.  If Nugent-Hopkins spends another year in Junior, the club can afford themselves a little bit of breathing room as his three year entry-level deal won’t begin until the following year.

Logically, where are you going to stick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on this roster?  I’ve heard the argument to put him on the fourth line.  With Ben Eager.

Here’s what my top four look like.

  • Horcoff
  • Gagner
  • Belanger
  • Brule or Anton Lander

Having a guy like RNH play fourth line minutes makes less sense than putting him on line one or two.  I don’t think anyone will argue that Horcoff and Gagner are 1-2.  Now that the club signed an applicable 3C in Eric Belanger, it makes little sense trying to force a guy like RNH onto this year’s squad.

Hang on to your hats.  He’s 18.  He will play for this club.

Some readers are hell-bent on getting Nugent-Hopkins into the lineup by any means possible.  I ask you:  why?

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