“So impressed. So impressed.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left his head coach thoroughly pleased with his performance against Ottawa on Thursday night. The centre is going to be, if he isn’t already, a very good NHL player.
Taken first overall in 2011, Nugent-Hopkins has taken great strides this season both on the ice and as a leader.
When the Oilers were down 3-0, Nugent-Hopkins showed his resiliency and demanded better.
“It’s fun to watch him,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “It’s fun to watch this kid grow into whatever player he’s going to turn into. He’d been a horse for us on that road trip and tonight, as he was battling through too, you could see him, his eyes narrow and him dig his heels in and basically say, ‘I’m going to change this game now.’”
Nugent-Hopkins had a partial breakaway shortly before the end of the first period. He earned an assist on Jordan Eberle’s 100th career NHL goal that drew the Oilers within one. He was also instrumental on the game-tying goal when he carried the puck strong into the zone and set up Jeff Petry for the tally.
The Oilers lost 4-3 in overtime, but their push back was impressive.
Having the Oilers best players put the team on their back and turn a game around is, “a great sign.”
Eakins said, “As these guys mature, I think you’re going to see more and more of it. They’re able to do it not just occasionally anymore. They’re getting to a point, they’re not there yet but they’re getting to a point, where they’re strong enough to do it, confident enough to do it, mentally tough enough to do it and it’s a part of their development. We saw a bunch of it on the road trip, but I think our fans got a very clear view of which way this young man is going.”
Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers in scoring with 13 points (5-8-13) in 15 games.