Patience is Key: An Ode To Edmonton Oilers Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 3: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 3: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins /

Patience must be key for the Edmonton Oilers when it comes down to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his overall development for the franchise.

Edmonton OilersRyan Nugent-Hopkins has always been a fan favorite in Oil Country. However, some have touted him as a “draft bust,” as a former first overall pick from the 2011 draft. After the 2016-2017 season, people were really starting to question RNH.

A July 19th, 2017 article in the Edmonton Journal written by Bruce Mccurdy stated that Nugent-Hopkins “may be skating on thin ice,” and that at that point, “expectations had exceeded results.” Since then, the Nuge has exceeded expectations and has molded himself into one of the most underrated, and most valuable players in the league.

Nuge has done an excellent job of adapting and evolving as a player, as many have to do. For some, you never have to change; you just keep improving in the role that you have played since coming into the league (i.e., Connor McDavid– sniper). The NHL is an “adapt or die” league where Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” is at large. Often, if you do not adapt, you will be pushed out.

Nugent-Hopkins came into the league with the expectation of being a #1, scoring center. He did not really flourish in that role, has not been a top scorer on the team through his first six seasons. So, what did he do? He adapted.

As a two-way forward with more offensive upside than ever (46 points in 50 games this season), Nugent-Hopkins is flourishing. He has been a huge bright spot in an up-and-down season for the Oil.

Nugent-Hopkins has turned himself into one of the best two-way forwards in the game. As a center, he handles huge minutes against the opponent’s best players on most nights. He also kills penalties and flanks one of the half-walls on the first powerplay unit. He does all of this and is almost at a point per game all while starting over half of his shifts in the defensive zone (52.3%).

He thinks the game at a level that is almost on par with the likes of Connor McDavid. He can keep up with Mcdavid and is with him step for step in his thinking, knowing where to be and finding sweet spots on the ice. This is a significant upside to his game, as being able to have the smarts to compliment the best players is a tremendous asset.

Now, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has done all of this all while being bombarded with criticism throughout his young career and playing for one of the most basket case organizations in the league. He has battled his way through and is a survivor of many poor “eras” in the Oilers organization.

He is a very underrated player. I would argue that he is in the top 10 regarding most underrated players in the game (along with players such as Alexander Barkov). The Oilers need to protect The Nuge at all costs. He has grown into a precious player, and on top of that, a very rare player.

He should be part of the Oilers long term plans. For a team that struggles to score, and struggles to keep the puck out of their net, he is integral to the team’s success.

He seems to be just hitting his stride and is still a young player. This is another example of how fans and management need to be patient with players. You never really know when a player will come into his own.

The Edmonton Oilers could have traded Nugent-Hopkins at a point where his value was extremely low. Many people miss this, and fans should be thankful that Oilers management did not pull the trigger on a Nugent-Hopkins trade (there were many rumors swirling after the 2017 playoffs). As noted above, the Oilers need to hang onto this player for dear life.

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I fear that the Edmonton Oilers will pull a deal like this with Jesse Puljujarvi. What if management trades this player at an extremely low value, and in 4-5 years (or less), Pulju comes back to burn us with another team? I can very much see this playing out if the Oilers deal Puljujarvi. So, what is the moral of the story with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

Be patient.