Ryan Nugent Hopkins is a player amidst an evolution. When he entered the league fans were impressed by his brilliant passing and moves on the powerplay. Over the years Nuge started looking less flashy but showed incredible poise for a young player on defense; on those earlier Oiler teams in particular someone had to play defense. Now Todd McLellan has let Nuge back off the leash and this season was a strong showing in Nuge's offensive capabilities.
Put another way The Nuge is Huge.
Before going down with rib injury, Nuge had 16 goals and 15 assists in the first 46 games of the season and on pace for his first 30 goal season. This was with Milan Lucic as his most common line mate in case people want to challenge whether or not he was generating his own offense. Certainly playing better than a third line centre like some people from other fan-bases seem to think he is.
There should not be any debate on whether RNH or Draisaitl should be the second line centre behind McDavid. That conversation is irrelevant for the moment. Because RNH is now the Oilers top line left winger.
The samples are still quite small in the grand scheme but the McDavid and Nugent Hopkins has been offensive brilliance... one might question why it took so long to try it.
Nevertheless it's good to see them together. The possession numbers were caved a bit with a CF% of 49.39% together (Nuge without McDavid ran 49.92 and McDavid without Nuge ran 52.93) however that is basically where the negatives end.
Since March 10th the McDavid and RNH duo was on the ice for 69% of the Oilers Even Strength Goals. Nuge himself went from scoring at a .67 PPG pace to a 1.15 PPG pace after being paired with McDavid. Of course "The McDavid Effect" plays into this but other players have not had anywhere close to that kind of increase. Again I can't stress this enough.... Nuge produced as he did for the first half of the season with Milan Lucic stapled to his line.
Despite missing 20 games #93 tied is career high in goals. I firmly believe if RNH is a regular with McDavid next season he will surpass 30 goals and 60 points for the first time in his career.
Thanks for reading.