Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is emerging as the overwhelming favourite to go first overall at this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Numerous scouts and hockey experts have opined positively about his on-ice vision, hockey sense, and puck skills.
There is, however, one thing about Nugent-Hopkins that bothers me: his relatively poor even-strength scoring. A number of reasons have been suggested, and one of them is that Nugent-Hopkins plays with inferior teammates. Was he being held back by the other players on his line this season?
On the power play, it is clear that Nugent-Hopkins is incredibly dynamic, and his numbers tower over those of his most prominent teammates.
Power Play Scoring, Red Deer Rebels Forwards
The top three power play forwards for Red Deer were Nugent-Hopkins, Froese and Kudrna. Froese was the top triggerman, but clearly Nugent-Hopkins was the straw that stirred the drink – his point totals easily surpass those of his teammates. What about at even-strength?
Even Strength Scoring, Red Deer Rebels Forwards
The even-strength numbers are far different. Where Nugent-Hopkins was dominant on the power play, his numbers at even-strength were good but are not exceptional on his team. Brett Ferguson surpassed his scoring, and both Persson and Kudrna finished within a whisker.
What does this all mean?
I don’t think it makes Nugent-Hopkins a bad player – his numbers are quite good for a draft eligible prospect. I do worry that collectively we’re overrating him because of his power play potency, and we’re selling short the fact that he’s been good but not great at evens.