by Lisa McRitchie on 11/02/11 at 02:45 PM ET
As surprising as the news that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would play the 2011-12 season with the Oilers was, the news that The Nuge has earned the Rookie of the Month title for October must have been… well, even less of a surprise. The only way that Nugent-Hopkins would have been sent back to junior this year would have been if he didn’t play a game with the Oilers to begin with.
Nugent-Hopkins has stepped up his game as the competition and importance of the games has increased. Nugent-Hopkins looked good at the Penticton Young Stars Tournament, but that was against other rookies and prospects. During the pre-season, Nugent-Hopkins performed well, but that was only pre-season and not against full NHL rosters. But then came the regular season and with it all of the expectations and the importance of every game especially early in the season.
During his first NHL game, opening night in Edmonton, Nugent-Hopkins scored the game tying goal and hasn’t looked back. Scoring 11 points in 11 games, including his first NHL hat-trick, Nugent Hopkins leads his team in scoring and points. Well, he’s tied with Ryan Smyth for goals at 5, but let’s let the kid have his moment in the sun.
There are nights where Nugent-Hopkins is kept off of the scoring sheet, but he is still instrumental in the goals his line mates earn. This is to be expected of any player, but Nugent-Hopkins is enjoying one of the hottest starts to a season in recent history.
Nugent-Hopkins will of course start to see a slow down at some point in the season, but with any luck that will come in February, and long after the Oilers have found their feet. The upcoming Oilers road trip will be especially interesting to see how Nugent-Hopkins responds to the pressure and schedule. For the month of November, the Oilers will play only 4 home games. Hopefully Nugent-Hopkins will be able to maintain his point per game pace once the dust settles.
The competition for the Rookie of the Year award could be quite fierce. At this point, there is not much separating the top performers, but after two years in the NHL basement, Oiler fans are happy to be leaders if only for a little while.
With the rookie of the month honour, Nugent-Hopkins joins NHL third star of the month Nikolai Khabibulin for the October spotlight. How fitting that October is also the Canadian Thanksgiving; Oiler fans have much to be thankful for.
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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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