Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t have the worst season, but there is a call for him to step up.
Impact on the Team
Nugent-Hopkins was determined to show his worth this season after an injury-filled 2015-16 campaign. In turn, he shifted his focus to building upon a solid defensive game to make him a more valuable two-way forward. This would help Edmonton thrive in an area where it was struggling, and also add depth. Not to mention, it would help Nugent-Hopkins keep his job on the top six, and make him a strong overall asset.
When it comes to his backchecking ability, Nugent-Hopkins was outstanding. He proved able to win draws and take away the puck, though he could have done a better job of maintaining possession. Still, he played safe and smart hockey for the most part. However, this would come with drawbacks.
Oil On Whyte 3 Reasons Why the Oilers Can Contend for the Stanley Cup in 2022-23
More headlines around FanSided:— Top 5 Edmonton Oilers players to keep an eye on for fantasy hockey 2022 — Oilers - the TO rescue 911 crew — Three Things The Edmonton Oilers Need To Accomplish Still — Recapping free agency so far — Salary Cap Trouble Could be Costly for Oilers
The 24-year-old finished the season with 18 goals and 43 points through all 82 games and was a minus-10. He didn’t play with too much physicality, nor did he really try to hang onto the puck or win battles for it. He spent more time dumping in the puck and didn’t really try to chase after it or make fancy plays.
Defensively, Nugent-Hopkins put up solid numbers. He had 48 takeaways for just 30 giveaways this season. He could have been better possession-wise, as he showed a -.8 relative Corsi. That’s not the worst by any means, and he was pretty good on defence. He just has to have more push on the forward line.
Room for Improvement
Not to mention, Todd McLellan recently spoke on Nugent-Hopkins and how he needs to play with more risk after this campaign.
As witnessed, Nugent-Hopkins appears to be holding back a lot of his skill. He doesn’t come into the zone with as much speed and fancy stick-handling than he used to have. Perhaps his dialed-back play arises from the fact that he wants to ensure that he doesn’t land the team in trouble. However, you need to take risks to score goals, and always playing on the safe side can lead to trouble, especially if you’re a goal-scorer and that’s your job.
With Nugent-Hopkins failing to put up much chemistry or offence, the team may have to consider moving him to the bottom-six. This would not be ideal, as both he and Jordan Eberle are being paid $6 million per year to play on the third line. This is not how it can happen.
Overall Grade: B-
Nugent-Hopkins didn’t have a terrible season, and he did do a great job defensively. However, if he wants to exceed expectations, and make sure his future is in Edmonton on the top-six, he’ll have to bring back his scoring ability.