NEW YORK -- Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is starting to show why he declined an invitation from Hockey Canada to play in the 2014 IIHF World Championship in order to dedicate himself to his offseason strength and conditioning training program.
Further proof came Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, where Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, scored a goal, had an assist, and overall showed his strength on the puck and on his skates in a 3-1 win against the New York Rangers.
Nugent-Hopkins has nine points in his past 10 games. He's noticeably thicker in his upper body without his pads and sweater on, and he showed the Rangers how much more powerful he is on the ice, prompting coach Dallas Eakins to offer this analysis:
"This kid is coming like gangbusters right now," Eakins said.