by Lisa McRitchie on 10/16/11 at 11:30 PM ET
It’s a beautiful fall Sunday in Alberta. The sky is blue, the leaves have turned and gently float on the breeze and crunch under your feet. Oh, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored all of the Oilers goals last night. Overall it seems like a great day to be an Oilers fan.
In three games with the club, Nugent-Hopkins has scored 4 goals. The first goal was in his very first NHL game, and in his third game, the young man goes and scores himself a hat-trick. These four goals came from a total of nine shots on net for a shooting percentage of 44.4. Not a bad start to an NHL career at all.
The interesting part is that Nugent-Hopkins has yet to score an NHL assist. This is not for lack of trying; it’s just that no one has been able to score off of a Nugent-Hopkins pass but Nugent-Hopkins always seems to be in the right place at the right time for rebounds.
The Oilers still have six more games in which to make a decision as to whether or not they will send Nugent-Hopkins back to the Red Deer Rebels. There were very few voices in June saying that Nugent-Hopkins will play the entire season in Edmonton. Now, the voices saying Nugent-Hopkins will be re-assigned seem to be quieted if not silenced.
When the argument arises about “burning a year of the entry level contract” all that can be said at this point is that we do not know what the next CBA will look like, and there is not much else that can be done. Nugent-Hopkins has the talent and skill, and has proven that he can take the speed and added challenges of the NHL game, to this point at least. True, faceoffs continue to be an issue, but practicing against Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger should help with that.
Sunday, Nugent-Hopkins answered questions about his hat-trick and the goal that might have actually been Taylor Hall’s. “I had no idea really, and I don’t think Taylor did either. Either way, we were both happy that the puck went in.” There was clearly discussion between the new kid line and Hall might feel that he missed out on his first goal of the season, but perhaps this past weekend will help Hall challenge himself more, if that is at all possible. When drafted by the Oilers, Hall was known to be quite the stats buff and competitor.
On the six remaining games in Nugent-Hopkins’ nine game tryout, “Right now I’m just focusing on Monday night. This morning I woke up and I just got to forget about last night to get focused to play my best tomorrow.” A one game at a time attitude is both healthy and expected. Nugent-Hopkins is not known for long and descriptive responses. Perhaps like NHL faceoff wins, things will come with time.
Whether Nugent-Hopkins plays another 6 or 79, or any other number of games as an Oiler this season is not a certainty, that is one thing you have to expect as a hockey fan. One thing is certain, this is definitely not Nugent-Hopkins only season as an Oiler, this is the start of a very exciting NHL career.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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