Though the last couple of games haven’t been great for the Edmonton Oilers, centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been outstanding.
To kick off the 2017-18 campaign, the 24-year-old has two goals in three games and appears much more improved from previous years. In fact, though it’s early, he is showing flashes of his former self, and there appears to be more edge behind his game to start the year.
In his first full 82-game season last year, the former first-overall pick had 18 goals and 43 points. He was also a minus-10. And though his totals weren’t the worst, they were unimpressive given his salary and role as a second-line centre.
With Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle being shipped out, there might have been a wake-up call or silent message for Nugent-Hopkins to improve and contribute more. And so far, he looks great.
So Far, So Good
Not only does he have two tallies so far, but he has five shots and four takeaways for just two giveaways. He is skating with much more speed and energy and looks more determined. Not only that, but there seems to be more offensive edge and risk in his game, which is something that has been absent throughout the last couple of seasons.
In addition, Nugent-Hopkins appears more confident with the puck and is taking good care of it as he moves up the ice. His ability to enter the zone and maintain control of the play on the offensive is something that the Oilers need going forward.
So far, he has skated with the likes of Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian, Anton Slepyshev and Kailer Yamamoto, and he is showing chemistry with all of them. And that synergy that he brings to his line, as well as that energy, makes him a much more prominent player for the Oilers to keep in the lineup.
Overall, he is having a great start to the year, but consistency is key. We have seen inconsistency and injury plague him over time, but simply looking at his play so far, it’s easy to see a difference. And hopefully, that continues going forward.