RNH - Best 2nd Line Centre In The Pacific
Ryan Nugent Hopkins is a criminally underrated player. When he was drafted first overall in 2011, he was expected to be the Oilers franchise centre of the future, alongside wingers Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. Now RNH is the only one who remains from those three and has now been eclipsed by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Despite all of that, the Nuge is still a brilliant hockey player and I'm here today to explain why he is the best 2nd line centre in the Pacific Division.
Here is the competition:
ANAHEIM DUCKS - ADAM HENRIQUE
ARIZONA COYOTES - DEREK STEPAN
CALGARY FLAMES - MIKAEL BACKLUND
LA KINGS - ADRIAN KEMPE
SAN JOSE SHARKS - TOMAS HERTL
VANCOUVER CANUCKS - BO HORVAT
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS - PAUL STASTNY
For starters, let's discuss our defending champion RNH and take a look at his numbers from last season, because the 26 year old centre had a career season last year.
Player GP G A P 5x5 P/60 PPP ATOI
Ryan Nugent Hopkins 82 28 41 69 1.75 26 20:06
A large reason for the spike in RNH's points this past season was because of a dominant powerplay. Edmonton had the 9th best PP last season and RNH finished 22nd among all forwards last season with 26 powerplay points. It was a great season for #93, but how does it compare to his competitors?
Player GP G A P 5x5 P/60 PPP ATOI
Adam Henrique 82 18 24 42 1.42 13 16:27
Derek Stepan 72 15 20 35 1.53 3 19:13
Mikael Backlund 77 21 26 47 2.04 2 17:54
Adrian Kempe 81 12 16 28 1.28 4 14:30
Tomas Hertl 77 35 39 74 2.6 15 19:01
Bo Horvat 82 27 34 61 1.54 18 20:50
Paul Stastny 50 13 29 42 2.52 4 18:06
Let's eliminate a few names off of the list. Henrique, Kempe, and Stepan don't have the numbers to suggest being in the same conversation as RNH. This leaves Backlund, Hertl, Horvat and Stastny real competitors.
Having said that, I would still take RNH on my team over any of them.
Last season, RNH produced 40 points at even strength, which is tied with Bo Horvat, ahead of Stastny (36) and behind Backlund (43) and Hertl (57). Nugent-Hopkins produced these points in extremely difficult situations.
RNH rarely started in the offensive zone, with 53.6% of all his zone starts in the defensive zone. Hertl, Backlund, and Stastny all started more than 50% of their starts in the offensive zone with only Horvat having more Zone Starts in the defensive end (59.1)
The big one and the most important one to discuss in regards to RNH and his fellow 2nd line centres.
Tomas Hertl and his 74 points is an incredibly impressive feat but it is certainly worth noting his most common linemates. At evens last year, Hertl played the most at 5 on 5 with Logan Couture (376:12), Timo Meier (317:58), and Evander Kane (445:10). Here are those players boxcars
Meanwhile... in Edmonton, here are Nuge's most common linemates.
Milan Lucic (211:54) 6-14-20
Alex Chiasson (289:31) 22-16-38
Connor McDavid (376:03) 41-75-116
It shouldn't be a surprise that when RNH played with McDavid, he produced more. Through the first 20 games of last season, when Nugent-Hopkins spent time on the wing with McDavid, he produced 19 points through the first 20 games. Despite playing with 3rd and 4th line wingers and having those players shuffled every few games, RNH still found ways to produce at a first line level.
RNH is a jack of all trades player for Edmonton. He can play either centre or the wing, be the team's most responsible defensive player, while still finding ways to produce with mediocre linemates.
Next season RNH will have his 8th new coach in 9 seasons of NHL hockey. He has been a great soldier for Edmonton over nearly a decade and rarely gets the attention he deserves. Holland needs to find at least one more high end player for Nuge to play with and new coach Dave Tippett needs to ensure that there is some semblance of consistency for one of the Oilers best forwards.