Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is bringing it right now. The WHL POW has March Madness with 15 points in 6 games this month. He's racked up 2 hat tricks, a 5 and 4 point game, and he reached the century mark over the weekend. The highest ranked WHL player for the NHL draft has 102 points and sits tied for 3rd in league scoring. RNH has more assists (74) this year than he had points (65) last season.
I've also talked to a number of scouts who think he's playing a lot tougher than he did earlier in the season, which would indicate this is a guy that ratchets up his game when the tough slogging of a stretch drive and playoff begins.
2 NHL GM's, who have a very good chance of ending up in the NHL draft lottery have said they would take the Red Deer Rebel first overall. This I have from a very good and credible scouting source. Another high placed scout thought if RHN reached the 30 goal mark it would be enough to convince whoever has the first overall pick to take him. Right now he's at 28, with 2 games to go (@Edm Fri, Vs. Edm Sat) this season.
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has hinted this season that you can be a little more about drafting for need then simply taking the best player available, and with guys like RNH, Adam Larsson, Sean Couturier, Gabriel Landeskog or Jonathan Huberdeau there is something for pretty much any need.
If you've never watched Nugent-Hopkins play, or have only seen him a few times he can beat you in several different ways. His release is almost NHL ready, but he prefers to dish out the puck which he does a masterful job of. He went back hand shelf in a big way Sunday vs. the Calgary Hitmen after a terrific move to create some room. The knock on the face off specialist is that he's to slight, which is true...right now. He's 6.0 and 164 lbs according to the WHL which is small, but as Guy put it on our Saturday show, if he's your best small player then big deal. Patrick Kane is 5.10 and 178 pounds. Plus he who knows how much he can bulk up over the next two years. There is nothing that says just because RNH might get taken first overall that he has to play in the NHL this season.
I said after the season opener for Red Deer in Edmonton this year that the Rebels would score more goals off Nugent-Hopkins' rebounds then assists..but that was before I released how good his vision was. Below is a sampling from RHN...from one game...where he notched 6 points.
If you're in Edmonton Friday night, the Rebels are in town, and it's looking right now that Edmonton/Red Deer might be a first round match up. On Saturday we'll also be speaking with an old TPS friend Cam Moon, the voice of the Rebels to recap Friday's tilt, set up the final game of the regular season, look ahead to the playoffs and of course talk more about RNH.