Edmonton Oilers: Nugent-Hopkins Should Be On The McDavid Line

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 2: Connor McDavid
CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 2: Connor McDavid /

Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has the right skill set to play on the top line with Connor McDavid.

During their three years as teammates with the Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have rarely played together, as Head Coach Todd McLellan prefers to use them on different lines and power-play units. Even so, Oilers fans have wanted to see the two former first overall picks play together all season. And when McLellan finally put McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins together, they did not disappoint.

McDavid scored his 30th goal of the season, tying his career-high, and added an assist in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. After missing 18 games with cracked ribs, Nugent-Hopkins played 13:20 in his return to action against the Rangers and scored a beautiful one-time goal in the second period set up by who else, but McDavid.

“[Nugent-Hopkins] does everything for us,” McDavid told Oilers TV. “He’s good on face-offs, good the penalty kill, power-play guy, five-on-five his game speaks for itself this season. And he’s a guy that we definitely relied on heavily and missed him during his absence. But we’re glad he’s back healthy and out there with us.”

Last Year

Last season, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were the NHL’s top scoring duo with 177 combined points. But now that Draisaitl has shown he is more than capable of driving his own line, it’s time for the Oilers to experiment with Nugent-Hopkins flanking McDavid. Nugent-Hopkins has the hockey IQ and speed to play with a generational talent like McDavid. And while both No. 97 and No. 93 are both pass-first players, they can each finish off plays, too.

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McDavid is on pace for 38 goals this season, which would be the most by an Oilers’ player since Ryan Smyth had 39 goals in 1996-97. And even after missing the past seven weeks, Nugent-Hopkins could still surpass his career-high 24 goals in 2014-15, with a strong finish.

Looking Ahead

Now, it was only one game, but the idea of McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins getting an extended look as linemates is an exciting one for many Oilers fans. If Milan Lucic can regularly play alongside McDavid, despite going 29 games without a goal, then Nugent-Hopkins has undoubtedly earned the same opportunity.

Simply put, the Oilers cannot go into the off-season without knowing if McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins have any chemistry and can develop into a dangerous offensive duo.