On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to watch a player who is projected to be chosen in the top 5 of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Red Deer Rebels (WHL) center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read, here is a little more about a player who could be on fantasy teams as early as next season.
Nugent-Hopkins is best described as a playmaker who is not afraid to grind it out as needed – a worm on the ice. In other words, his stat line (21 GP-5 G-25 A-30 PTS) resembles more Henrik Sedin, whereas his all-out style shows a little Alex Ovechkin. His stat total reflects his innate ability to pass the puck, and he also shows an uncanny ability to get into position where he needs to. As well, the Burnaby, BC, native (who was making a return to his hometown in this game) played on the first team power-play and seemed to be in control in the faceoff circle. This season is Nugent-Hopkins’ second in the WHL, as he looks to build on an impressive 65 points (24 G-41 A) in 67 games from his 2009-10 rookie season.
There are a couple drawbacks to his draft stock. First, Nugent-Hopkins does not hold that intangible that scouts seem to drool over on draft day: size. Nugent-Hopkins is only 164 pounds (on a six-foot tall frame), although at 17 years old, he has lots of time to bulk up. As well, the new NHL is more conducive to the smaller player. Second, Nugent did not seem to be the fastest skater on the ice, although his positioning ability could make up for his lack of speed. Hey, wasn’t a player named Gretzky told that he was too small and too slow for the NHL?
Interestingly enough, the game I attended featured four of the WHL’s top five scorers: Nugent-Hopkins, teammate Byron Froese (Chicago prospect), and Vancouver Giants Craig Cunningham (Boston prospect) and Brendan Gallagher (Montreal prospect). Although Nugent-Hopkins was held without a point in this game, he did score an impressive forehand-backhand deke shootout goal. With all this scoring prowess under one roof, a track meet had to be expected, but the result turned out to be a 3-2 shootout win for the Giants.
If you’re having trouble remembering his name, Nugent-Hopkins has no plans to drop one of his names, a la Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson or Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. But if you want to see more of his skill, he would seem to be a solid bet to be on Team Canada’s roster at the World Junior Championships this holiday season.
For more on Nugent-Hopkins:
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