Edmonton Oilers: Stay Away from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Far, Far Away
This is part 1 of my series examining what moves I think the Oilers should make in the offseason.
As another long, last place season draws to a close, Oilers fans once again set their sights on the upcoming draft. With 30th place once again assured, the Oilers will have a 48.2% chance of retaining the first overall pick, and will be picking no worse than second overall.
So, much like last year, it is now time for us Oiler fans to fulfill our inner Steve Tambellini—given duty to analyze, scrutinise, argue and debate everything from a players ppg production to whether or not he has facial hair and is therefore destined for a growth spurt.
I say, let the madness commence!
Now, without further ado, I will make the first in what will surely be a large number of ridiculous generalizations and blanket statements by Oilers fans on this website; the Edmonton Oilers would be insane to select Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first (or second) overall, and here's why:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 106 points (31-75) in 69 games with the Red Deer Rebels this season, for a PPG output of 1.53 points-per-game. He also finished the season +30. Impressive, right? As it turns out, all is not as it appears to be in the land of Hopkins.
The major concern I have when it comes to Nugent-Hopkins is his PP/ES point production split. Nugent-Hopkins scored 11 ppg and contributed 48 PPA this season, accounting for a whopping 55.6% of his total offensive output. At even strength Nugent-Hopkins scored at the pedestrian pace of 0.68 ppg
For someone being touted as a first overall pick, that stat is alarming. Hockey games are won and lost at even strength, and the best players in the game are those that produce at even strength.
In Henrik Sedin's Hart and Art Ross trophy winning season last year, special teams only accounted for 25.8% of his total offense. He scored at a rate of 1.01 ppg at ES.
When Alexander Ovechkin scored 65 goals and 112 points in 2007-08, 33% of his total offense came by way of special teams. Ovechkin scored at a 0.91 ppg pace at ES.
Even Steven Stamkos, widely regarded as a Power Play specialist, only scored 43.1% of his total offense on special teams last year. Admittedly, Stamkos did only score 0.65 ppg at even strength last year, but I don't know of anyone who thinks Hopkins will become a 50 goal scorer the way Stamkos has.
I wanted to know if it was unusual for a Junior aged player to have such a lopsided point distribution, so I did some research, crunched some numbers and compared RNH to previous lottery pick players.
Last year, Taylor Hall scored 48.1% of his 106 points at special teams, but still scored at an elite pace of 0.96 ppg at ES. 40.5% of Tyler Seguin's total offense was courtesy of special teams last year. Tyler Seguin scored 1 ppg at ES last year.
When John Tavares broke Wayne Gretzky's record for goals by a 16 year old in the OHL in 2006-07, 54.4% of his offense was scored at special teams. Tavares still scored 0.91 PPG at ES that season. In his draft year of 2008-09, special teams accounted for 54.8% of Tavares' 104 points. He scored 0.83 ppg at ES in his draft year.
In 2008-09, Matt Duchene scored 49.3% of his total offense while playing at special teams. Duchene scored 0.70 ppg at ES in the 2008-09 season.
In 2005-06, Jonathan Toews scored approximately (I couldn't find his PPA numbers, so I estimated 7 assists to go along with his 9 goals) 41% of his offense at special teams. He scored 0.54 ppg at ES, but we have to remember that Toew was playing in the NCAA, not the CHL, and in 2006-07, Toews ES production rose to 0.91 ppg.
The closest comparables I could find to Nugent-Hopkins were Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner. In 2006-07. Patrick Kane scored 54.4% of his points on special teams, but still put up 1.2 ppg at ES. A whopping 60.1% of Sam Gagner's total offense was courtesy of special teams play, but even Gagner put up 0.88 ppg at ES.
The player who came closest to RNH ES ppg pace was Matt Duchene with 0.70 ppg in 08-09.
What concerns me about Hopkins putting about the majority of his points on the PP is that it doesn't translate well to the NHL. Patrick Kane's power play production went from 54.4% in his draft year to 50% in 2008-09 to 32.9% last season.
Last year, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored at a clip of 0.97 ppg. This year he scored at 1.53 ppg in the regular season. It's not uncommon for junior players to have such a jump in offensive production from year to year. In fact, it's exactly the kind of progression you would want to see, but the fact that it's being largely fueled by power play production in the case of RNH makes me nervous.
Oiler fans remember all to well the 2005-06 season of Rob Shremp, when he put up 145 points, but the vast majority on the power play, and it is now clear that season was a mirage.
I get increasingly nervous that if Tambellini selects Hopkins we are going to end up with another Sam Gagner on our hands. Now, I'm not suggesting Sam Gagner is a bust, but it's become increasingly clear that his ceiling is not as high as first thought, and that he will not become the first line center we have been looking for since Doug Weight was traded.
Another concern with Hopkins is the fact that he is rail thin. It's very possible that he will fill out, but it's also possible that he doesn't and that the Oil end up with another diminutive who will get outmuscled at the NHL level.
I think there's just too many warning signs when it comes to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and that the Oilers need to stay far, far away from him come draft day.
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