David Staples has a post up over on Cult of Hockey in which he basically has a Jon Landau moment, saying, in so many words, “I saw the future of hockey and its name is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.”
David referenced my piece having a little fun with John MacKinnon’s column earlier this year, in which he basically said the same thing, although expanded to encompass all of the Oilers, predicting that “…sorting out which goals belong on the highlight reel may be a larger problem than identifying where the goals will come from” on the basis of the contributions from The Nuge and the other young fellows.
I haven’t really taken a look at the Nuge’s numbers in a while, so I thought I’d check back in on him. Truth be told, at ES, I haven’t been all that impressed. Here are the important ES numbers:
There are a lot of really interesting numbers there. The Nuge is squarely in the one percent during the BTN era when it comes to his ZoneStart – very few guys have had a more favourable mix of offensive/defensive zone faceoffs as he has. Like 0.3% have started in more favourable spots on the ice. I used ordinals for the QualComp – of the regulars up front, nine have tougher QualComps than the Nuge. He starts in the fun end of the ice against guys who aren’t very good. There’s nothing wrong with that per se – it’s just something that you have to take into account when you’re evaluating him. Renney slants the ice for him as much as he can.
Against that context, the Oilers getting 48.7% of the shots when the Nuge is on the ice isn’t particularly good. As I’ve shown previously, a more favourable ZoneStart will up the percentage of shots that we’d expect a player to get when he’s on the ice. The only players to play at least 40 games in a season and at least 10 ES minutes a night were the Sedins and Alex Burrows last year and Mike Ribeiro in 2007-08. All four were comfortably in the black shotswise. The Oilers aren’t getting enough of the shots when the Nuge is on the ice, given where he starts from.
The Nuge’s numbers actually look pretty good right now – 2.5 5v5 P/60 is excellent for a rookie. It’s a mirage though. When he’s on the ice, the Oilers are shooting 11.05%. He’s shooting 23% and the rest of the team is shooting 7.5%. I wouldn’t expect him to keep shooting 23%.
Say, for the sake of discussion, that he’s a 9.5% shooter – this is, I think, charitable. At his shooting rate, we’d expect him to score 0.62 G/60 from here on out. If we figure he has 55 games, at 13.3 ES minutes a night, left, that’s another seven or eight 5v5 goals on the season – I’d be pretty comfortable betting that he will score somewhere between four and eleven more, assuming good health and a constant ice time level.
I’m not sure that the assist level will change all that much – I’ve fiddled with some numbers and it looks reasonable. So that’s another 12 5v5 assists or so – call it somewhere between 9 and 15. Add it all up and he ends up with a mean of about 8-12-20 for the rest of the season at 5v5, to go with the 10-6-16 so far. That’s 18-18-36 at 5v5, which isn’t bad although, again, you have to keep in mind that he’s being handed pretty favourable ice time. For some comparison, Hall and Eberle went 14-17-31 and 12-18-30 in 65 and 69 games respectively last year at ES. Renney was running his bench like a minor hockey coach too and they weren’t really sheltered or given favourable starting points on the ice.
If we’re talking purely about ES, I’m probably more impressed with what Hall and Eberle did than I am with what Nugent-Hopkins looks like he’ll do.
There is, however, the PP to consider. Having looked at the numbers here, I’ve come to a conclusion: he is a witch. Here are the numbers:
OK – he isn’t going to keep shooting 23% on the PP and the Oilers aren’t going to keep scoring on 20% of their shots with him on the ice. The NHL does not work that way. I did a little math though and figured out how many 5v4 points Nugent-Hopkins gets the rest of the way if he and the Oilers shoot at a certain percentage, assuming that he plays all 82 games and averages the same amount of 5v4 TOI that he has to date.
League average on the PP is around 12%. Say, for the sake of discussion, that the Oilers put up 13% from here to the end of the line with RNH on the ice and he racks up 30 PP points (leaving aside any 5v3 or 4v3 points he might get). That would be a PHENOMENAL accomplishment. How phenomenal would it be? Well, there’s data available for rookie PP scoring from 1987-88 to present. What follows is the complete list of rookies to break the 30 point barrier on the PP and, where available, their PP TOI along with the number of PP opportunities their team had. I’ve run RNH and the Oilers out for a full season to provide a comparison.
You’ll notice that RNH is a pretty good bet to make that list despite having significantly less ice time/team PP opportunities than virtually everyone else on the list. The only guy even remotely in his ballpark is Paul Stastny, who I suspect was not really carrying the load and, in any event, was three years older.
You really can’t say enough about the year that it appears likely that RNH will have on the PP. If he makes it to 30 PP points – and I think that this is likely, even with significant regression towards the mean – he’s likely going to post the best PPP/60 number that’s been recorded. Considering the names of the guys who’ve accomplished this and the fact that he’s 18, he’s going to find himself in some pretty spectacular company by the end of the year, injuries permitting.