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BLOG: Nugent-Hopkins prefers centre; wants consistent wingers

"For me, I move my feet a lot more when I'm centre. I'm involved in the play a lot more as opposed to just watching it," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn't trying to cut out the middleman.

The Oilers forward played both wing and centre in the 2018-19 season, establishing new career highs in goals, assists and points with 28, 41 and 69, respectively, while also suiting up in all 82 Oilers outings for just the second time in his eight seasons in the League.

"I definitely am more comfortable as a centreman," Nugent-Hopkins said Sunday at his exit interview with the media. "If I do get thrown on the wing, I think I can go there without adjusting too much now."

A natural pivot though, Nugent-Hopkins disclosed why playing up the middle benefits him more as a skater.

"For me, I move my feet a lot more when I'm centre," he said. "I'm involved in the play a lot more as opposed to just watching it. Sometimes it's hard to get yourself going as a winger because you can go a shift or two shifts without touching the puck sometimes and that's just how it is. 

"As a centre, you're always involved in the play and that helps you get into the game and feeling good."

The 25-year-old bounced around from manning his own unit to flanking Connor McDavid throughout the season, and liked the consistency of playing with routine linemates, which wasn't the case in 2018-19.

Video: RAW | Nugent-Hopkins 04.07.19

"The main thing is we just got to figure it out to find a way to win again," the Burnaby, BC, product said. "Consistency with player personnel, that does help. Personally, for me, I had a lot of wingers this year. I played wing myself a little bit and had a lot of wingers. I didn't have a lot of stretches where I had the same line and that can be a little tough sometimes. 

"You do play with everybody, so you do know each other but when you play together with a line for four or five games, you start to build chemistry and you start to find each other more. Good things come from it. This year for me, that's just not how it happened. That's going to be something that I would like to see different in the future."

Nugent-Hopkins went 45.12 percent in the faceoff circle and ended the campaign with 26 power-play points.

"Last year and this year have been my two best years with finding the offensive production without sacrificing anything defensively," the 2011 first-overall selection said. "I'm still growing in that aspect, for sure. I'm still growing my game. I think the last two years, I've found it a little bit more and have more confidence back there to do it at both ends of the rink."

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