Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still a powerplay ace, but overwhelming with steady strength. What’s up with that?

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Powerplay ace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is back with the Edmonton Oilers from the COVID protocol, but his straight strength score is not back.

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It has been slack for two seasons in a row now.

RNH has 25 points in 28 games this year. That sounds pretty good, does it? But he has only nine points with even strength.

He kills it in the powerplay, where he ranks 19th overall for NHL strikers for his scoring. But he ranks just 259th out of 364 regular NHL strikers (minimum 200 minutes played with equal strength). Basically, he scores in line with a third-line striker, not exactly exciting news in Edmonton, as RNH has played most of the time with scoring-ace Leon Draisaitl, and given that he has just signed a new eight- annual agreement to $ 5.125 million per. .

This follows his performance from last season, where he ranked 343 out of 432 regular NHL strikers, with just 1.18 points per game. 60 straight strength minutes. At the Oilers, his point production speed was 12 out of 15 for regular strikers, lower than the bottom line Alex Chiasson, Devin Shore and Josh Archibald. All of this came when RNH played much of the time on the same line as Connor McDavid.

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I was hoping when RNH signed his eight-year deal last summer that his equal strength score would return.

After all, he had had his best success playing on the DYNamite Line with Yamamoto and Draisaitl in the latter half of the 2019-20 season. That line was the best trio in the NHL in 2019-20, arguably the best line in the NHL. But Oilers coach Dave Tippett did not use the line in the 2020 playoffs and only went for it in the 2020-21 season after McDavid and RNH did not show much chemistry. At the time, the magic had gone out of the DYNamite Line, but I expected the three-leaf clover to combine again to play great hockey in 2021-22.

They have played together for 226 straight strength minutes this year and scored 11 goals for, with eight goals against, respectable 58 percent goals in percent, but we have hardly seen the fireworks we saw from the trio in 2019-20.

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So what? What happens to RNH with even strength?

On the powerplay are superior passing abilities that help create all sorts of grade A shots, mainly of combinations of cross-ice slices and darkness to and from McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s an integral part of the best powerplay the NHL has seen in decades.

But the same passing lanes that open up on the powerplay are clogged with defenders and sticks of even strength. It takes more to a power game. More goes hard to the net, fights in the corners and protects the puck, skills where RNH is not an ace, he is not even average.

To put it bluntly, the perimeter skills that enable him to thrive with the game of power do not have the same effect at even strength. If he is to start scoring more, he needs to play more in and around the field. He and winger Yamamoto, who is also struggling to score points with even strength, must play with more bites, win more puck matches, create more turnovers, fanatically check until the points get their way again.

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