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2011 #1 NHL pick ready to breakout..finally

Breakout year 7 seasons in

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Edmonton Oilers Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

He’s 27th in the league in goals scored despite being in the 80’s in shots taken, he’s 26th in faceoffs won, he has a positive plus/minus and he’s already half way to a career high in power play goals. Oh, I forgot the most important part, he’s only 27% owned in Fantasy.

Below clip is an empty netter- sure but the hustle to get there is what I’m owatching. He actually follows up a cross ice dump to the goal. Because the biggest change I’m seeing is how hard he’s skating night in and night out.

Remember this guy? He was the 1st overall pick in the 2011 draft and is now in his 7th season in the NHL. He has largely been underwhelming fo ra #1 overall pick, he’s not bad, but he has yet to eclipse 60 points, something that every forward who was #1 pick (so excluding Aaron Eckblad) since then has done. Well, with one exception but I think we can all agree that Nail Yakupov was indeed a bust. Ryan has only scored more than 20 goals once in his 7 seasons (24 goals in 2014-2015 season the same season he had a career high 56 points). Here he is, 18 games into the 2017-2018 season and he has 8 points which would extrapolate out to 36 goals over a full year. His 14 points would extrapolate out to 63 points, another high in his career.

Reason to pause – he’s had three seasons with at least 5 goals in his first 18 games and more often than not he tapers down a bit as the season goes on. In fact, in 5 of his 6 seasons in the NHL he has scored more points pre All-Star break than post All-Star break.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Washington Capitals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

What I find interesting – after years where he was given 20+ minutes of time on ice, he is down to 18 minutes this season with a more productive time. Here is my theory on this – there two parts to his 8 goals scored

1. 3 PPG which is already half way to the most he’s had in a season. He is headlining the 2nd PP unit with Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi and Ryan Strome which is a strong unit to go with. Milan is a big boost and a dominating presence in front of the net which helps Ryan focus on producing.

2. The other 5 goals that he has this year are beneficiary of Connor McDavid. He’s not on the same line as Connor he’s just the beneficiary of other lines being focused on Connor McDavid and Ryan being allowed to do his thing with an improved line of Milan Lucic and Jesse Puljujarvi on the 2nd line. In 2015-2016 Connor joined the team and promptly got hurt half way through the season, well so did Ryan who blocked a shot by Dmitry Kulikov and was out for around 25 games that season. The next season (2016-2017) Ryan saw his minutes dip down to 17 minutes per game and his shot total was the second lowest of his career at 9% (only 5.1% in 2012-2013 was lower).

Why I’m optimistic: he’s clearly feeling well in his spot on the team coupled with linemates. It was just three games ago when Jesse joined the line and he has one point in his first three games. having Puljujarvi on the line is fresh bit its already yielding results and should be fruitful in weeks to come. Ryan shot looks back to what we are used to ( hes scoring in the 15%s) and he is showing drive an determination in the wake of a very demoralizing start for what everyone anticipated to be one of the strongest NHL teams. I get that there are dozens of solid center options out there but while he’s hot (and as the 12thhighest scoring center I’d say he is) he’s worth riding this hot streak for a few weeks at most and likely until the all-star break if he can maintain 85-90% of this production. Personally I think he’s in for a career year and could compete with Leon Draisaitl for 2nd best player on this team.