2011 NHL Draft Prospect Preview: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – the number one ranked North American skater by Central Scouting – is expected to be long gone when the Devils step up to the podium to make the fourth overall selection on June 24. However, stranger things have happened on draft day, so we are previewing him nonetheless.
At 6’0, 164 lbs, Nugent-Hopkins isn’t the bulkiest forward in this year’s draft, but he makes up for that with speed, skill, and style. Praised for his Gretzky-like vision, ability to maneuver the puck in the tightest of spaces, and tendency to make the players around him better, he has all the makings of a first-line playmaking center.
The 18-year-old Burnaby, British Columbia native didn’t start off the season atop the prospect rankings, but surged up after a breakout 2010-11 campaign with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. In 69 regular season games, he scored 31 goals and recorded a league-leading 75 assists for a team-high 106 points. He also posted four goals and seven assists in nine playoff contests.
Although he is best known for his offensive prowess, Nugent-Hopkins has also displayed a strong commitment to playing well on the other side of the puck. Using his quickness and active stick, he excels at dispossessing the puck from opponents and forcing turnovers – skills he may find particularly useful in New Jersey.
The Devils’ depth at the center position looks to have improved significantly with the promising play of prospects Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique last season. Still, a player of Nugent-Hopkins’ caliber would be a welcomed addition to the organization. If he does fall to the Devils, he may not make the jump to the NHL right away, but it wouldn’t be long before Devils fans see him playing alongside the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias at The Rock.