Entering the 2011-2012 NHL season some questioned whether the first overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be ready for the NHL due to his size. Some said he should play another season in juniors in order to build size and muscle to handle himself better as he steps into the NHL. Nugent-Hopkins made the Oilers lineup out of training camp and as 9 games passed he showed enough to the coaching staff that they kept him with the big club.
In his first season in the NHL, Nugent-Hopkins would show why he was drafted first overall scoring 52 points in just 62 games with the Oilers, including a hat trick just days into the season against Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks. Combined with linemates Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall the trio makes for a dangerous combination and should be tormenting goaltenders throughout the league for years to come. The positive to keeping Nugent-Hopkins with the team after 9 games has been the experience he gained playing against some of the worlds best competition and grown men, opposed to 16 year olds in junior hockey. The negative side to it of course would be his undersized frame taking the beating perhaps before it’s ready, which makes him vulnerable to injuries.
To start off the new year Nugent-Hopkins would injure his shoulder in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, in which he would leave the ice and not return. Injuries such as this happen in the NHL and can’t exactly be blamed on one factor or another, accidents do happen afterall. However Nugent-Hopkins may have been higher on this list had he been able to stay healthy through the course of his rookie season in which he missed 20 games.
It is believed Hall also missed out on winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie because of the time he missed, which helped vault eventual winner Gabriel Landeskog to the victory. While he may not have won rookie of the year honors that still does not take away from the player that he is, Wayne Gretzky never won the award after all and he turned out just fine.
Look for Nugent-Hopkins to quickly become a top forward in the NHL and one day, possibly soon, challenge for the league scoring title. He certainly has the support around him to do so and with the addition of 2012 first overall selection Nail Yakupov, Nugent-Hopkins has even more talent to work with in the coming seasons.
Nugent-Hopkins discussing his injury after a game in Chicago.
Hat trick against Vancouver on October 15th 2011.