2021 Free Agency: Five Forwards The Flyers Should Consider Signing

Jan 18, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Zach Hyman (11) carries the puck against Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier (14) during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Zach Hyman (11) carries the puck against Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier (14) during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

Nugent-Hopkins, a former first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2011, is coming off a 35-point regular season, scoring 16 goals and 19 assists in 52 games. He also registered one goal and one assist in the Oilers’ North Division series against the Winnipeg Jets, who swept the series against Edmonton last night in triple overtime.

The majority of Nugent-Hopkins’ production came on the power play, as nine goals and 11 assists came on the man advantage for the 28 year-old Burnaby, British Columbia native. Nugent-Hopkins averaged the second-most ice time on the power play for the Oilers with 4:13, just one second shy of team leader Leon Draisaitl and two seconds ahead of the league’s probable MVP this year in Connor McDavid. Nugent-Hopkins averaged the fifth-most minutes overall on the top-heavy Oilers, logging 20:42 ice time per game, ranking behind Darnell Nurse, Draisaitl, McDavid, and Barrie. The TOI average was a career for Nugent-Hopkins.

Of course, his increased production on the power play versus even-strength can be attributed to playing with offensive machines such as McDavid, Draisaitl, and power play quarterback Tyson Barrie, and this is actually the first time in his NHL career he has scored more on the power play than at even-strength. However, Nugent-Hopkins is a great playmaker and can obviously score too, so it’s not unreasonable to think he can produce just as well on a unit that could feature Giroux, Couturier, and  Voracek with Shayne Gostisbehere quarterbacking everything.

Nugent-Hopkins is definitely a candidate that could provide the Flyers with massive help offensively after the team had a down year putting the puck in the net, and he can either play center or the wing as well. This renders him as an intriguing piece that Alain Vigneault could elect to use him as a center on the second or third line, or use him as a winger to complement one of Couturier, Hayes, or Nolan Patrick.

Nugent-Hopkins is also an option for the Flyers to use on their penalty kill. He trailed only Josh Archibald in penalty killing minutes among forwards for the Oilers this past season and helped anchor a unit that finished ninth in penalty killing percentage across the league at a 82.5% rate.

Nugent-Hopkins has really grown over his career as a solid two-way forward, even garnering a few Selke Trophy votes in 2019-20 to finish 24th in the race. He did however only start 40.8% of his shifts in the defensive zone though, so he’s not exactly looked at as a shutdown player and that number would likely remain stagnant or perhaps drop with defensive-minded forwards like Couturier, Hayes, and Scott Laughton all capable of getting their teams out of a jam in their own end.

Nugent-Hopkins’ basic advanced metrics remained pretty decent this season. His CF% rose to 52.4%, a career high, and his PDO dipped a little bit to 98.9. The Oilers’ ESSV% with Nugent-Hopkins on the ice was only .907, but Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are not exactly two goaltenders I would say are great at what they do, so you can read into that number however you’d like to. And yes I am aware Mike Smith had a good year, but that does not make up for the plethora of bad years he’s had too.

Overall, Nugent-Hopkins is a forward who can provide steady minutes for the Flyers and can play in almost any situation for them, and could especially provide a major boost to a penalty kill that ranked 30th in the league last season on top of the offensive skill he can bring to Philadelphia.