It's that time of year. No, not the Cup Finals, at least not for the Avalanche. It's time to get excited for the draft. With two picks in the Top 11 this year the Avalanche are hopefully going to get two excellent prospects. As such, I thought it'd be fun to put the Regular Cupcakes aside for a few days and explore some of the players.
First up, the expected first pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Some basic facts, Ryan is a Center who shoots left, was born April 12th, 1993 in Burnaby B.C. and in 6'1 and weights approximately 170 pounds. Ryan has stated (in the Hockey News Draft Preview (2011 edition) magazine - it was a good read) that he would like to continue using his full name, hyphens and all, on his jersey in the NHL. RHN was the WHL rookie of the year during the 2010 season.
As is expected of the top rated pick, he has great vision. In fact that's one of the things that keeps coming up.
International Scouting Services:
"He is the kind of player everybody wants on their team. Set up men with this vision and focus are extremely rare. He works hard, has an explosive skating stride and is extremely poised, patient and deceptive with the puck."
He did quite well this past season to bring himself up to the number 1 position.
In 69 games for the Rebels, Nugent-Hopkins scored 31 goals and added 75 assists for 106 points, a point total that was good for fourth overall in the WHL. His assist total was the best in the WHL
Not only that, he also has a bit of International experience.
He represented Canada at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament where he was Canada's leading scorer with 5 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. Nugent-Hopkins was invited to the tryout camp for Canada's entry at the 2011 World Junior Championship but missed the cut.
Something I found interesting was that he was picked first overall in the draft that landed him in Red Deer in 2008.
"I had some general managers come up and tell me that we made the right choice, that we picked the best player in the draft," said the Red Deer Rebels vice president of hockey operations and head scout.
"We did all of our homework and we feel really comfortable with the pick. Ryan is a really good kid off the ice and a great one on the ice."
Bruins 2011 Draft Watch has a bunch of great bits on RNH if you are looking to do some extra reading. Lots of good is said, however there are a few things that aren't so nice. Some of the not good?
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C Red Deer (WHL) -" I like him plenty, but I have nagging doubts. Why do I feel like I'm watching the next Jamie Lundmark? That lackluster track record of Western League dynamic offensive whiz kids is always in the back of my mind. He seems to me like a guy with a high floor, but I would have said that about Gilbert Brule also."
Also some good.
RNH is a dynamic, game-breaking talent who belongs at the top of the list. Some have made interesting observations about his production, both predominant success with the man advantage and in terms of him requiring room to operate. In all honesty, the NHL and independent scouts we've spoken to have raved about his pure skill and ability to get it done, so the only real concern with him right now is putting some size on his very slender frame. Even with some of the doubts, RNH has still managed to put the puck in the net and set up myriad other goals, so as far as we're concerned, he deserves his spot atop the NA skaters list.
The Scouting Report has some good things to say about the youngester.
1. LC Ryan Nugent-Hopkins | Red Deer -In a class by himself in the WHL – a good skater that is extremely agile, top-notch passer with an underrated shot.
ESPN's Dallas Stars Blog has some good info, and great quotes about him
"(Nugent-Hopkins) has very good puck-handling capabilities. His on-ice awareness is very good. He's one of those guys that knows where everyone is and where they should be and where the puck should go . . . He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand with that kind of vision. But not just the vision, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade -- that's hard to find." - B.J. MacDonald, NHL Central Scouting
The Faceoff Factor also has some interesting tidbits. Certainly being a young leader is one of the qualities that the Avalanche have been going after in recent years. There are also more RNH videos, for those interested in seeing him in action, on this page.
He’s also well spoken for his age and is the young leader of a Red Deer Rebels team that follows him into battle.
The key with Nugent-Hopkins is size. At 6’0, 155lbs, he hasn’t even totally filled out yet. He might not make a name for himself by utilizing his size and laying hits in the corner, but as he continues to add size, he’ll continue to evolve his game to accommodate that. However, that lack of size is no deterrent for Nugent-Hopkins. If you try to take advantage of his stature, he’ll dangle around you or protect the puck with ease.
Tomorrow's Cupcakes will feature Adam Larsson. For information on Gabriel Landeskog feel free to look back at this article, when I talked about him in March.