Spotlight on the Opponent: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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If you believe in sophomore jinxes and are a hockey fan, then you know all about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Nugent-Hopkins, the Edmonton Oilers’ No. 1 pick (and No. 1 overall) in the 2011 Entry Draft, dazzled folks in his rookie season, as an 18-year-old. N-H had 18 goals and 52 points in just 62 games. He averaged almost 18 minutes of ice time per game and was praised effusively for his playmaking ability.

Then came his sophomore season, which was also the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. Things didn’t go so well for RN-H, as he tallied just four goals in 40 games, though he did get credit for 20 assists. But that can happen, especially to teenagers playing in the NHL.

But if you believe in sophomore jinxes/slumps, then when it comes to N-H, you have to believe in junior achievement as well.

This is N-H’s junior year in the NHL, and so far so good.

Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers in scoring, with 4/6/10, and his ice time has risen to over 21:00 per game.

Maybe N-H truly is blessed this season, because last week in Los Angeles, he avoided serious injury when he took a knee from the Kings’ Kyle Clifford.

“(Clifford) stuck out his knee. We all hold our breaths when that happens,” said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins.

RN-H is 6’1″, 190 and like most young players who are drafted high because of their scoring knack, he is a work in progress defensively. Currently he is minus-9 for the Oilers, who at 3-9-2 are once again among the Western Conference’s bottom feeders.

But there is no question that RN-H is bouncing back in the scoring column after a frustrating sophomore year.

“It’s different your second season, because your role changes,” N-H recently told the Edmonton Sun“It really causes a confidence problem. It doesn’t help your confidence at all.”

But it looks like the confidence is back.

Nugent-Hopkins wears no. 93 for Edmonton.

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