Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still a power play ace but under-whelming at even strength. What’s up with that?

Article content

Power play ace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is back with Edmonton Oilers from the COVID protocol, but his even strength scoring isn’t back.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

It’s been slack for two straight season now.

RNH has 25 points in 28 games this year. That sounds pretty good, right? But he’s got just nine points at even strength.

He’s killing it on the power play, where he ranks 19th overall for NHL forwards for his rate of point scoring. But he ranks just 259th out of 364 regular NHL forwards (minimum of 200 even strength minutes played). Essentially he’s scoring at the rate of a third-line forward, not exactly thrilling news in Edmonton, given RNH has played most of the time with scoring ace Leon Draisaitl, and given that he just signed a new eight-year deal at $5.125 million per.

This follows his performance from last season where he ranked 343 out of 432 regular NHL forwards, at just 1.18 points per 60 even strength minutes. On the Oilers, his rate of point production was 12 out of 15 for regular forwards, lower than bottom liners Alex Chiasson, Devin Shore and Josh Archibald. All of this came as RNH was playing much of the time on the same line as Connor McDavid.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

I was hoping when RNH signed his eight-year deal this past summer that his even strength scoring would rebound.

After all, he had had his best success playing on the DYNamite Line with Yamamoto and Draisaitl in the last half of the 2019-20 season. That line was the best trio in the NHL in 2019-20, arguably the best line in the NHL. But Oilers coach Dave Tippett didn’t use the line in the 2020 playoffs and only went to it in the 2020-21 season after McDavid and RNH didn’t show much chemistry. By then, the magic had gone out of the DYNamite Line, but I expected that threesome would again combine to play great hockey in 2021-22.

They have played together for 226 even strength minutes this year, scoring 11 goals for, with eight goals against, a respectable 58 per cent goals for percentage, but we’ve hardly seen the fireworks we saw from the trio in 2019-20.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

What’s up? What’s up with RNH at even strength?

On the power play is superlative passing skill helps create all kinds of Grade A shots, mainly off combination cross-ice slices and darks to and from McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s an integral part of the best power play the NHL has seen in decades.

But those same passing lanes that open up on the power play are clogged with defenders and sticks at even strength. More of a power game is needed. More going hard to the net, battling in the corners, and puck protecting, skills where RNH isn’t an ace, he’s not even average.

To put it bluntly, the perimeter skills that allow him to thrive on the power play don’t have the same impact at even strength. If he’s going to start scoring more, he’s got to get more of a game in and around the crease. He and winger Yamamoto, who is also struggling to put up points at even strength, have to play with more bite, winning more puck battles, creating more turnovers, fanatically checking until the points come their way again.

At the Cult

McCURDY: Broberg and Samorukov  are up but will they play?

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View original article here Source