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

Player Games Goals Assists Points PTS/GM
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 69 11 49 60 0.871
Byron Froese 70 24 23 47 0.671
Andrej Kudrna 65 16 24 40 0.615
Johan Persson 68 11 6 17 0.250
Brett Ferguson 72 2 6 8 0.111
Turner Elson 68 5 2 7 0.103
Adam Kambeitz 72 2 1 3 0.042

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

Player Games Goals Assists Points PTS/GM
Brett Ferguson 72 21 32 53 0.736
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 69 20 26 46 0.667
Johan Persson 68 22 22 44 0.647
Andrej Kudrna 65 13 29 42 0.646
Adam Kambeitz 72 14 21 35 0.486
Byron Froese 70 19 15 34 0.486
Turner Elson 68 11 13 24 0.353

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.

Comments (4)

  1. With regards to EV scoring if RNH was the straw that stirs the drink on the PP then he would be the same on his line. That is why his linemates have similar stats, because he makes everyone around him better. You have also failed to mention here(as well in the Oilogesphere) that wingers have far fewer defensive responsibilities then centerman and judging my scouting reports regarding RNH he is a deecent defensive player for his age.

    Stats can show something, but there are many other factors that you have to look at.

  2. @ David:

    Nugent-Hopkins outpaces his nearest linemate on the power play by 30%. He outpaces his nearest linemate at even-strength by 3.0%. Why the difference? My suggestion is that it’s because RNH is an unparalleled dynamo on the man advantage, and that his EV game needs work. The main point here is simply that the idea his even-strength totals are being drug down by matching boat anchors on either wing has been way overblown.

    As for the defensive responsibilities of centremen, that’s true, BUT you may have noticed that centres tend to put up more points than wingers, so I don’t buy that as an argument.

  3. I find it important to point out that his goals per game are quite low on the PP, likely because he’s racking up assists as the set-up man, but his goals per game on even strength are right up there with the rest of the high scorers on the team. So obviously he’s taking the puck to the net and shooting more when it’s 5 on 5, which I think is important to consider.

  4. I cannot confirm this, but another thing to consider is that the Rebels (apparently) were rolling 3 main lines even strength while most other CHL teams roll two. If this were true, this would completely explain RNH’s apparent lack of even strength scoring. Just goes to show how scoring statistics are useless without TOI stats.

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