Looking back on the 2013 season for the Edmonton Oilers, it’s extremely easy to call the second year in the NHL for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a sophomore slump. In many respects, that is absolutely true. From a numbers standpoint, he wasn’t good.
Nugent-Hopkins played in 40 games during the 2013 season, a good portion of which he was slowed by nagging injuries. His numbers saw a sharp decline from his rookie season of 2013, a year in which he finished second in the Calder Trophy race behind Gabriel Landeskog.
After scoring 18 goals in 2011-2012, RNH found the back of the net just four times in 2013. Even his assists took a pretty big dip, dropping from 34 to 20. Of course, a lot of that could be attributed to the shortened season, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
So from a pure production standpoint, it’s hard to label Nugent-Hopkins’ second year in the league anything other than a disappointment. But looking beyond the numbers, he actually made some pretty decent strides in his second year that could indicate a bounce back season for his offensive figures in 2013-14.
Nugent-Hopkins spent the year playing against the top competition among forwards on the Oilers. That was a big step up from last season, and required an adjustment. There was also more of a balance in his zone starts, between offensive and defensive, as well as the fact that he saw a seven percent increase in his win percentage at the dot. His total Corsi at even strength for the year was +108.
It’s tough to be too critical of what Nugent-Hopkins achieved, or did not achieve, in 2013. He was playing tougher minutes against tougher competition, while serving more of an all-around role than he had in the previous season. Don’t overlook the fact that his shooting percentage dropped by eight points, to just five percent overall.
We’ll likely see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins bounce back in a big way in 2013-2014. The Oilers transitioned him to the two-way forward role that he was expected to be in when he was drafted. With a season to adjust to more minutes against tougher competition, as well as the fact that he’ll be completely healthy heading into the new year, expect a big bounce back from the former first overall pick next season.