One of the most exciting times of the year is upon us as we are about two weeks away from the NHL Entry Draft which takes place beginning Friday June 24th at 6:00 P.M. Eastern time. The Florida Panthers will be drafting in the third position just as they did last season, and we here at the Rat Trick are going to break down some of the possiblities.
I’ve been selected by my “Rat Pack” brothers to go first and talk about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Should Ryan be available when the Panthers are picking, this will be a player much like last year’s pick Erik Gudbranson, that they cannot pass up. Ryan has steadily climbed up Central Scouting’s player rankings to the number one position. He’s listed at 6′ 0″ and 170 Lbs. He plays center, a position that we all know the Panthers are desperate for help in. Other than having to gain a few pounds, this kid is the real deal and is pretty much NHL ready.
Reading many of the reviews and analysis on him you will find a very common theme amongst everyone. A highly skilled player with great vision and excellent hockey IQ. He has been called the most complete player in this years draft, and has been compared to the great one for his Gretzky-like playmaking ability. The past two plus seasons Ryan has played in the Western Hockey League for the Red Deer Rebels and in 141 games he has totaled 177 points with 57 goals and 120 assists.
In 2009-2010 Ryan won the Jim Piggot Memorial Trophy as the Rookie of the Year in the Western Hockey League. Ryan hails from Burnaby, B.C. where another well known NHL star was from, Joe Sakic. If he can even come remotely close to the type of career that Sakic had, the team that drafts him is going to get something very special. NHL Network’s Craig Button had the following to say about Ryan:
“He makes everyone around him better,” NHL Network analyst Craig Button said. “He reminds me of Joe Sakic in this thinking and ability. Sakic was one of those guys where it didn’t matter what type of game you were playing. You always knew you could count on Joe Sakic and you knew he’d made a play and make a difference, and I feel exactly the same way about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In my mind, it will take an enormous effort by another player to unseat Nugent-Hopkins as the No. 1 prospect heading into the Draft because I think he’s a star in the making.”
NHL Central’s B.J. MacDonald who spoecializes in players from the Western League offered his opinion as well:
“You get a player like (Nugent-Hopkins) … you pair him with (Jarome) Iginla or somebody like that,” MacDonald said, “it could be a phenomenal combination. Because with a center like that, who can dish like that, is what a lot of teams strive to get. They want that center who can not only make players around him better, but both linemates. He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand, with that kind of vision. It’s not just the vision, either, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade — that’s hard to find.”
Nugent-Hopkins could have been motivated for his strong finish to his season this year after he did not make the cut for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. IN the first 35 games of this year Ryan had 10 goals and 37 assists, but in the final 34 games of the year Ryan had 21 goals and 38 assists. Here’s what he said about being cut from the Team Canada squad:
“It was tough getting cut but I tried to take all the positives I could from it and just keep on getting better,”
Hard to take a pass on this kid by anyone should he be available, but if the Panthers are lucky enough to have him sitting there, it should be a pretty simple decision. Other than his weight being an issue it appears that he’s NHL ready and would look great wearing a Panther sweater.