Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is an integral piece to the Edmonton Oilers lineup; his vast versatility and reliability make him the team’s trusty Swiss-Army Knife, whether it’s even strength, penalty kill, or the power play—he can do it all.
Although RNH has struggled as a second-line centre in the past, he has more than held his own in that position this year, the most noticeable difference in his play this season has been his physical play, ability to win puck battles and willingness to go to the gritty areas of the ice. Even with the top-six going through the blender multiple times this season due to the mounting injuries, Nugent-Hopkins has been able to produce consistently with inconsistent linemates.
Nugent-Hopkins’ career by the numbers
Taking a look at his entire career, we can see how his play has evolved. All data is courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com.
With a total of 18 goals and 41 points in 34 games, RNH has been the third most productive forward behind Connor McDavid (66 points) and Leon Draisaitl (56 points) and is on pace to record a 98-point season which would beat his career high of 69 points in 82 games during the 2019-20 season.
RNH’s shooting percentage (S%) is at a career-high of 21.2%, which is 5.3% higher than his previous best in 2017. He is second highest on the team in this area behind McDavid (21.9%) and is better than Draisaitl (18.6%). Although his S% is likely to decrease as the season goes on, it goes to show how efficient he has been when it comes to capitalizing on his opportunities.
Part of the RNH’s success this season has been his physical play; he is currently sitting at 21 hits in 34 games and is on pace for 51 hits over 82 games, which is more than he has gotten since 2018-19, when he had 69 hits.
Nugent-Hopkin’s possession metrics
Looking at his more advanced stats, his possession has been superb this season.
RNH also has solid possession metrics with his Corsi in all situations at 57.0%, and his Fenwick is even higher at 57.5%, meaning the team is in control of the puck between 57-57.5% of the time when he is on the ice. This is also another career-high in both metrics.
These stats help enforce the argument that RNH has elevated his defensive game this season when compared to other years, as it is hard for the opposing team to score when you have possession of puck. Even when looking at giveaways, i.e. a loss of possession, RNH is also on pace for a career-low in this area with a pace of just 26 individual giveaways over 82 games.
Nugent-Hopkins’ career power play stats
Nugent-Hopkins has been a regular power play contributor too, and this season is one of his best showings on the man-advantage.
Looking at his career, RNH has excelled as a power play forward ever since his first season with the Oilers back in 2011–12; he is very comfortable in the bumper position and can consistently thread cross-seam passes for one-timer opportunities. Averaging 23 points on the power play in 82 games, he is currently one point away from tying his season-average 34 games into this season and is currently on pace for 52 power play points over an 82-game span.
Also a penalty kill contributor
RNH’s first took on a major role on the penalty kill for the Oilers back in the 2013–14 season and has been a pretty reliable option on the penalty kill. One area that he has struggled in is his faceoff win percentage while on the PK, which is currently sitting at 41.3%; being able to win a draw in your own zone and clearing the puck to kill time is an important part of the PK and its clear that RNH has not been winning very many.
The Oilers penalty kill has struggled right from the start of the season and is currently sitting at 72.31%, 26th in the NHL standings.
What has been the difference for Nugent-Hopkins
According to David Staples of The Cult of Hockey Podcast, RNH averaged one “Grade A” chance a game last year; this year, he has improved to 1.5 chances a game. This could be part of his massive jump in offensive production this year, mixed in with other variables like puck luck, confidence, health and strategic positioning.
This season, RNH has been making a habit of driving the net more than in previous years, and it seems to be paying off, as most of his goals have been either from the slot or around the net, especially on the power play.
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