Friday, October 26, 2012

Nugent-Hopkins poised to become the Oilers next 100 point player

Over the past five National Hockey League seasons, only six players have have managed to crack the 100 point barrier. The last Edmonton Oilers player to accomplish the feat, was Doug Weight, way back in 1995-96.

The former captain put together 104 point campaign and no Oiler player has come close since. That may all change in the not to distant future, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looks to join some special company and it may happen as early as the 2013-14 season.

After a rather impressive showing during his 52 point rookie season, Nugent-Hopkins seems primed and ready to take that next step in his development. Development for many, would consist of adding another 10-15 points to one's point total but in the case of the Nuge, that would be selling the former Red Deer Rebels standout short.

With the Oilers adding another highly skilled forward, in Nail Yakupov, and landing arguably the biggest fish in the UFA pool, in blueliner Justin Schultz, the kid that wears #93 suddenly has a wealth weapons at his disposal. While the youngster continues to grow into his NHL skin, the fact he is now surrounded by a wealth of talent, not only bodes well for the nineteen year-old moving forward but is something that is an absolute must, if he were to have a legitimate shot at pushing for the century mark.

The six players who have surpassed the 100 point plateau over the last five years were:

Alex Ovechkin (x3), Evgeni Malkin (x3), Sidney Crosby (x2), Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom

While all six are great players, there is one common theme with those players...they came from just three teams. In Pittsburgh, they have Crosby and Malkin, who continually push one another into becoming better players and ultimately collect more points because of it. Same deal in Vancouver, with the Sedin twins, and in Washington with Ovechkin and Backstrom.

In order to score at an elite level, every player, no matter how good, must play with other gifted players in order to reach that elite level and that is the exact scenario facing the offensively gifted Nugent-Hopkins.

Bringing in the likes of Yakupov and Schultz, to a group that already features Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky in the mix, RNH could not have dreamed for a better situation. The fact the former first overall selection is blessed with the supporting cast he has, it seems almost like a formality for him to eventually put together one of those magical seasons. He is that good and many of his teammates are not far behind.

With Nugent-Hopkins the focal point of a potentially deadly power play, he gives himself a real shot at reaching the mark. After just one season in the league, you could make the arguement that he is already the best power play guy in the league and with more experience, he will only get better.

Add to that, the fact that he will be surrounded by three players that could all push the 40 goal plateau throughout their careers, in Eberle, Hall and Yakupov, and you see the pieces are in place for the Nuge to give it a run.

While the Oilers core group are all young in age, come 2013-14, Nugent-Hopkins "should" be entering his third NHL season, while Hall and Eberle would be in their fourth campaign. Which is when the vast majority of elite offensive players start to reach their potential. Outside of the Sedin twins, who accomplished their 100 point campaigns in their ninth and tenth seasons, the other four did it within their first three.

If you look around the league, you find the same thing with other top end players. Claude Giroux hit 93 points in 2011-12, his third full season and fourth overall. Steven Stamkos went over the ninety point mark in his second, Zach Parise did it in his fourth. The list isn't exactly a large one but Nugent-Hopkins isn't exactly your run of the mill NHL player.

Doug Weight is not only the last Edmonton Oiler to reach 100 point plateau but is also the last to hit the 90 point mark, which he did during his final year in an Oilers uniform, in 2000-2001.

For a franchise who's history was built on the high octane offence of the Wayne Gretzky era Oilers, the decade following Weight's departure, produced little to write home about.

That is all about to change, as the core of this group starts to lift this team out of their recent doldrums and back into contention. It might take another season or two but make no mistake, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on the verge of becoming one of the finest offensive weapons in the game today...something Oiler fans have not seen since the days of #99.

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