Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Skinny On Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

With many in the hockey world wondering if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (he of the sub 180lb. weight class) could possibly play in the NHL next season, I for one have little doubt that the elite skill, vision, hockey IQ, and elusiveness that he provides will aid him in stepping right into the NHL as an 18 year old.

Above are a few different pictures, we have from top to bottom and from left to right: 1st pic Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Gabriel Landeskog. 2nd pic Kyle Turris, Patrick Kane, and James Van Riemsdyk. 3rd pic Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane. RNH like Kane doesn't have very broad shoulders to say the least, however Kane looks like he just started middle school in his pics. This of course didn't seem to bother him en route to a 72 point performance just removed from the draft a feat that hasn't been matched since.

What other similarities are there between Kane and RNH slight frame aside? Both are tremendous playmakers and both are hard to hit square because they don't offer you much of a target with their frames, their exceptional skating, and their top end vision. Add to this Kane had a 19 year old teammate that was also highly skilled to play with in Toews (Hall anyone?).

Where do they differ? Kane is obviously shorter than RNH so he was more compact. Kane broke in on the wing which has less defensive responsibility than RNH's natural position as a center. Kane is more renowned for his sniping skills than RNH is.

Now I know that people love using the lockout as the benchmark for everything in the modern day NHL, but the '07-08 season is just 5 seasons ago at the start of this season and it was the 3rd season post lockout. The odds are against RNH having a Kane-esque 18 year old rookie season as the only player that has even been close since has been Jeff Skinner this past season and he was 9 points back. However the next time people decide to condemn RNH's chances of making the NHL this year do yourself a favor and look at the bottom picture of Gagner and Kane standing side by side, and whether you are a big believer in RNH or not, ask yourself if they could have the kind of rookie season fresh out of the draft that they did, why can't RNH?

Gagner is clearly behind RNH at the same age while Kane could be argued to have been further ahead despite looking like Macaulay Culkin a few years after Home Alone 2. RNH like Kane and like Skinner has elite skating ability on his side. Could we see him come in and win the Calder? The same trophy that we coveted last year that we had hoped that one of our Big 3 would bring to Edmonton for the very first time? Only time will tell, however IMO the odds of him coming in and lighting it up are higher than the odds of him getting sent down this year.

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