Oilers forward looks to build off the confidence he sustained in 2017-18
Ahead of the 2018-19 season, EdmontonOilers.com is taking a look back at the '17-18 individual performances of the Oilers in our series 'Roster Redux'
EDMONTON, AB -Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' worth to the Oilers is not to be undersold.
To paraphrase, the Nuge is huge.
The utility forward, perennially known as the Oilers most reliable two-way centre, became Connor McDavid's certified left winger to end the 2017-18 season - forming a tenacious offensive tandem with the team captain.
Nugent-Hopkins tied his career-high in goals in '17-18 with 24, also recording the same number of helpers for 48 points in 62 outings. But even before flanking McDavid, the alternate captain remained a consistent provider, not going more than three games without a point all campaign even after missing significant time due to a rib injury.
It was a component the 25-year-old wanted to improve after compiling 18 goals and 43 points a year prior.
"This summer, I just re-grouped and wanted to take a step forward offensively," Nugent-Hopkins said during his exit interview in the Oilers Hall of Fame Room. "Be a little bit more aggressive. Obviously, not sacrificing defence and finding a little bit of that mix there."
The Burnaby, BC, product made good on his off-season vows. RNH improved to plus-10 after being 10 strokes under in '16-17 and his offensive output skyrocketed along the boards. In his 13-game sample size alongside McDavid which saw him muster 15 points, Nugent-Hopkins' point per game average was 1.15. McDavid's 24 points in the final 13 outings reached a 1.84 clip.
But the personal success is to be brushed off, because after getting a taste of National Hockey League playoffs, Nugent-Hopkins hopes he and his teammates learned a valuable lesson in their subsequent down season.
"Individual success goes by the wayside when you don't have a good team," he said. "I want to re-group this summer. Everybody wants to get better and as a group, we need to take a step forward.
"Personally, it was disappointing to get injured halfway through the season. We wanted to make a push before that but that was the time we needed to make a push."
Individual and team success in the League is a by-product of confidence. That much, Nugent-Hopkins is aware of. And after finding the back of the net routinely, the 2011 first-overall selection has all the confidence in the world.
"Confidence does go a long way," he added. "I started out the year with a few goals and got a few nice bounces. Since then, you know that you can score and have the confidence in your mind."
While team expectations did fall short of being achieved, Nugent-Hopkins is steadfast in his belief of the current squad. He's experienced the rebuilds and re-structures and his confidence on the ice parallels his confidence in the group.
"We're a good team. We're close. We're right there," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We just need to find it again. When we want to play, we can compete with anybody in the League.
"I really feel that and I think everybody in the room feels that."