Huzzah! Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is officially staying in the NHL beyond nine games with the Edmonton Oilers!
This comes a complete shock given that (a) he is leading his team in scoring and (b) he flew with the team for Game No. 10 in Denver tonight and (c) his agent told Team 1260 in Edmonton on Friday that "if you look at Ryan's play or look at what the Oilers would describe as a body of work so far … he's their leading scorer. He's not going back to junior."
Things were getting a little weird for The Nuge and the Oilers, who waited until game day against the Colorado Avalanche to make the call. Contrast that with the Avs revealing Gabriel Landeskog would stay earlier this week and the fanfare for Erik Gudbranson with the Florida Panthers (video celebration here), and many Oilers fans were like, "What's the holdup here?"
This morning, his agent Rick Valette of Octagon told Nielsen and Chase on Team 1260 this was how he expected the process to play out:
"Steve [Tambellini] and Kevin [Lowe] have said at the beginning of this that they were going to go through the complete nine game process and look at the entire body of work, and I think they're still going to do that before Game 10. But even if you play your Game 10 or Game 11 or Game 12, they can still do something with him if they feel he should go back to junior. The reason Game 9 was significant is that his entry level contract kicks in, getting Year 1 out of the way and burning a year off. He's expected to play tonight in Denver, so the clock is ticking on it."
When asked if there should have been fanfare about The Nuge staying prior to today, he said: "I don't know. It's their business to run."
Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers in goals with five, is tied for the lead in points with nine and is tied for the lead in power-play points with five. He's also leading all rookies in goals and points (but not faceoff percentage, which is still a dismal 28.4). He's tied for the highest average ice time for rookie forwards (16:51) with Landeskog.
Oh, hey, look what the NHL did: They scheduled a game between the teams that picked first and second in the draft exactly 10 games into the season. How odd. Indeed, it's the Nuge vs. the Kog tonight, as Dan Rosen preview on NHL.com with his Nugent nugget from Craig Button:
"We know what RNH is physically, but you watch the game, he never gets hit," Button said. "Just watch a game of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the next time he gets hit clean, call me right away and let me know. I've been watching for two years and now early in his NHL career, I've seen him 18 or 19 times live, and I haven't seen it yet. He's always moving the puck ahead of time and then he's moving past you because he's so quick."
P.S. — There's been some debate about what to call the Hall/RNH/Eberle line. Some like The Kids and the Hall. Some like The Kid Line. Some prefer The Lottery Line. Seriously, people: How do you not seize upon this once-in-a-generation opportunity and christen this trio as The Baby Oil Line?