EdmontonOilers.com is checking in with Oilers players and prospects in our Roster Reboot series as they discuss their summer activities and gear up for the 2019-20 season.
EDMONTON, AB - Congratulations to The Nugelyweds.
After a big season for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - his best to date in the National Hockey League - the Oilers centre followed it up with a big off-season, which included getting married to his long-time partner in Hawaii, visiting his three horses at the track and training in Vancouver, BC, to prepare for the 2019-20 campaign.
"In April, I kind of recovered and then got training going then got back on the ice near May or June," Nugent-Hopkins told EdmontonOilers.com via phone. "In mid-July, I went to Hawaii and got married then honeymooned out there.
"It's been a good summer but I'm definitely ready to get going again."
Video: AUDIO | Nugent-Hopkins Interview
Nugent-Hopkins has good reason to be chomping at the bit. The 2011 first-overall selection completed a full 82-game campaign for the second time in his eight-season NHL tenure, ending the year with career highs in goals (28), assists (41) and points (69).
"For the past couple years, I've just been kind of trying to find the more offensive side of my game again instead of just focusing too much on the defensive side," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I know I want to be a solid two-way guy but that still means you got to produce and be a threat out there."
Nugent-Hopkins tallied 40 of his 69 points at even strength, sharing 5-on-5 time with a range of forwards including Oilers Captain Connor McDavid (376:03 Time On Ice, per NaturalStatTrick.com), Alex Chiasson (289:31 TOI), Jesse Puljujarvi (241:46 TOI) and Milan Lucic (211:54 TOI).
The forward was also a catalyst on the power play, striking eight times and adding 18 helpers for 26 total power-play points.
"Last year, I was pretty happy," the 26-year-old said. "You're never really happy with it unless the team does well but I got to just keep playing the same way and try to fill into that two-way position. I'm getting more comfortable as the years go on now being able to produce while not giving up much defensively."
By Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett's admission, Nugent-Hopkins will likely see at least one new face on his wing in '19-20. Former Calgary Flames winger James Neal was acquired by the Oilers in July and is expected to be partnered with the centreman.
"I like to look at pairs," Tippett told 630 CHED's Oilers Now Host Bob Stauffer. "Right now, you're looking at McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl possibly. I think you look at Neal and Nugent-Hopkins. Then it goes down from there."
Video: LAK@EDM: Nugent-Hopkins nets hat trick in 1st period
If that's the case, Nugent-Hopkins, who spoke briefly with the new Oilers coach as well as Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland, will try to utilize Neal's strengths from the flank. That means The Nuge's playmaking ability could be a suitable complement for The Real Deal Neal's lethal trigger.
"If we do end up playing together, obviously he does have that knack for the net and a great shot," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I'm just going to find him in good areas to get the puck and release it. That's something that I know going in.
"I want to use his strengths to our advantage."
While the Oilers Alternate Captain is keeping his personal expectations to himself, there is one collective goal he's pursuing.
"I think the past couple years, we've shown signs of what we can do," Nugent-Hopkins said. "But as far as the big picture goes, it's about whatever we can do to make that push again and find ourselves in the playoffs, where we should be."