Oilers Getting Great Value From Hyman & Nugent-Hopkins

Both Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ contracts were somewhat criticized for what they would look like down the road. That isn’t something the Edmonton Oilers are at all worried about considering the amazing value both have provided thus far into their long-term deals.

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The Oilers would look like a much different team up front and a much worse one at that if it weren’t for Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman, who as of now, look like steals. Both are off to hot starts this season and it can very well be sustained while playing alongside the best player in the world in Connor McDavid.

Related: Oilers’ Connor McDavid Can & Will Score 60 Goals This Season

Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins are effective in all situations, smart, and underrated for the value they bring to the Oilers each and every night. The Oilers’ time is now to make a splash in the league and make Stanley Cup runs. These two provide the team with a much better chance with them in the mix than not. Regardless of what comes of their contracts down the road, both players are showing they’re worth it with their impact right now (from “Player grades: McDavid, Hyman, Skinner shine as Oilers squeak past Flames”, Edmonton Journal, Oct. 30, 2022).

Stellar Play From Hyman & Nugent-Hopkins Has Been Present for a While

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, whether it be good or bad. So recency bias may be a factor when judging the impact Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins have had with the Oilers, but not when looking deeper at their overall impact (from “OILERS NOTES: 200 goals later, Nugent-Hopkins and Edmonton Oilers have come a long way”, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 27, 2022).

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Since the moment Hyman became an Oiler and suited up for the team, he had an immediate impact. Not only did the Oilers bolster their top six by adding a workhorse with offensive and defensive skill, but they also provided McDavid with a winger, something he sorely lacked in his career. Not only did Hyman set career highs in goals (27), assists (27), and points (54) in his first season with the Oilers, but he was also a key fixture on both special teams.

Hyman’s career highs in those categories are impressive, but more impressive was his performance in the playoffs. Everyone but last playoff’s top line of McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evander Kane were overshadowed by the dominance that he displayed. Hyman deserves a ton of credit for scoring a goal in six consecutive games, finishing with 11 goals and 16 points in 16 games, all while driving the second line.

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Nugent-Hopkins had a bit of an underwhelming season in 2021-22 compared to his previous few, but that’s behind him after this start. He had a tough time finding the back of the net last season, finishing with 11 goals. It was the fewest by him in a season since he scored four goals in 40 games in 2012-13. This season he’s off to a much better start with five goals and 11 points in nine games.

The reunion with McDavid on the top line has definitely sparked something in Nugent-Hopkins’ game. He was originally slated to line up on the third line this season, but lines got shuffled and he is once again playing the wing beside McDavid who he had career years beside in 2017-19. Only once in Nugent-Hopkins’ 11-year career has he finished above 50 percent in faceoffs, so it is beneficial that he is a very effective winger. Playing on the top line also allows him to showcase his talent beside better players.

Nugent-Hopkins & Hyman Are Leaders on Special Teams

The Oilers’ special teams are definitely better off with both Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins on them. Nugent-Hopkins has been playing an important role on both for longer, but Hyman made his presence known upon becoming a member of the team last season.

Zach Hyman Edmonton Oilers
Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nugent-Hopkins is a valued member of the power play that has finished first, first, and third in the NHL the past three seasons. When you think of the Oilers’ power play, McDavid and Draisaitl come to mind as the reasons why they’re so good. I’m not taking anything away from them, but Nugent-Hopkins recorded 17 power-play goals and 67 power-play points in the past three seasons. He already has one goal and six points on the power play this season to add to that total. He is almost always the outlet man on the left side of the ice to allow the Oilers a clean zone entry.

As for the shorthanded play by Nugent-Hopkins, he is one of the most trusted penalty killers defensively and has the confidence and skill to produce offence while down a man. He had three goals and five shorthanded points last season while already adding a shorthanded assist early this season. Hyman is Nugent-Hopkins’ partner on the penalty kill, and together they have a rare chemistry. The Oilers’ penalty kill hasn’t been great in general this season defensively but has produced two goals. Hyman’s speed and tenacity often break up plays in the Oilers’ end before skating the puck out and creating an offensive opportunity.

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As I mentioned, Hyman hasn’t been a fixture on the power play as long as Nugent-Hopkins has, but he has a place on the top unit. He won the net-front spot on the top unit over players like Jesse Puljujarvi and Kane who have also gotten looks. Hyman scored five power-play goals and produced 10 points on the man-advantage last season, the best in his career, before scoring three more power-play goals in the playoffs. He is effective at getting in front of the goaltender’s vision and keeping his stick on the ice for deflections or tap-ins. He’s already off to a strong start with two power play goals and three points.

This level of play by both Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins may very well be sustainable with McDavid in between them as the Oilers have the best lineup in many years and a lot of players in their primes. Both contracts look like absolute steals and the Oilers wouldn’t be where they are without either of them.

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