Edmonton Oilers: What Caused The Sophomore Slump Of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?

By Randy Holt
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers and their fans have grown accustomed to disappointment in recent years, with the 2013 season serving as no exception. Which is why it probably comes as no surprise that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the no. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, suffered through a pretty rough sophomore slump this year.

No one expected Nugent-Hopkins to take his rookie season, which included a second place finish in the Calder Trophy race, and turn into a superstar in year no. 2. He was expected to build on it and improve, however. As far as his production is concerned, though, RNH took a step back in 2013.

Obviously, you have to take the lockout into consideration, meaning that Nugent-Hopkins appeared in 22 less games in 2013 than he did in 2011-2012. But he also finished with less than half the points that he did in that rookie campaign, going from 52 in 62 games, to just 24 in 40 games.

There are a few reasons for that. The first was health, at least to some degree. At one point, he was sick, but he was also eventually shut down towards the end of the season and underwent shoulder surgery. So the fact that he heads into the new 2013-14 season healthy is going to be a good start for him right off the bat.

There are some trends to be noticed in the sophomore season compared to his first year. One is the fact that he actually played against a lower quality of competition than he did in his rookie season. He also started 52 percent of his draws in the offensive zone, down 10 percent from the previous season. His Corsi was also down a couple of notches.

The Oilers were clearly trying to transition Nugent-Hopkins into a bit more of a two-way role, rather than a purely offensive one like he served in his rookie season. With that, there are going to be growing pains. Toss in the health question and the fact that his shooting percentage went down from 13 to just five percent in his 2013 season, and you can easily see where the decline came into play.

It’s not difficult to see why Ryan Nugent-Hopkins suffered through a sophomore slump. But with a season to adjust to a role that features more defensive zone starts, as well as the fact that he’ll be completely healthy heading into next year, we should see a return to form for the former no. 1 overall pick in his third year.

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