SUN Hockey Pool

Q & A with Oilers' RNH

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins says having Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle on the team helped him settle in at...

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins says having Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle on the team helped him settle in at the NHL level. (QMI Agency/Perry Nelson)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:39 PM ET

Q: What are you thinking about as the hours count down to the final game of your rookie season?

RNH: “The year definitely went by pretty fast, but it was a good experience for me, I definitely learned a lot. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier coming to a team like this with such a young group of guys.

“They really made me feel comfortable and helped me adjust to the league faster than I would have if I didn’t have the younger guys helping me through everything.”

Q: Was it a difficult adjustment? It didn’t really look like it.

RNH: “The exhibition games were a good test. I played an exhibition game in Vancouver, it was against their full line-up and I felt pretty comfortable. I got hit pretty good once and got right back up. It took a little while to get used to things, but after that I was comfortable.”

Q: What is the hardest part about playing in the NHL for you?

RNH: “It’s not just how fast the players are, but the speed of the decisions that they make. You have to know what you’re doing with the puck before you even get it. That was probably the toughest thing to adjust to, guys close on you so fast that you really have to make decisions fast.”

Q: There were some in October who thought you should have been sent back to Junior. You responded by playing at a point-per-game clip in the NHL. Did you surprise even yourself a little?

RNH: “I didn’t know how I was going to adjust to the league, but on a personal level I’m pretty happy with how things went. I would have liked to stay healthy through the course of the year. It was tough to get hurt in my first year. But I was lucky to play with Jordan for most of the year, that was great. We developed some pretty good chemistry.”

Q: You can admit it now, the season’s over. Were you nervous or scared or freaked out at the start?

RNH: “Yeah. I was definitely nervous going into the first home game. I don’t think I said too much to anybody that day. It was nerve-racking. The first couple of games were like that. Then I started to settle down as the games went on and started to feel more comfortable.

“After I got hurt I had to kind of get that back, where I was feeling confident in myself again, but I’m confident now.”

Q: Was there a specific game or period or shift or play where you said ‘I can handle the NHL?’

RNH: “It’s hard to tell, but when I got my first hat-trick, at home against Vancouver, that was pretty exciting. I felt more comfortable after that.”

Q: Took a whole three games?

RNH: “Obviously I was still trying to make the team. So when I got through the first nine games, and the whole whether or not I was going to make it or not was out of the way, that was a big step for me.”

Q: Does having Hall and Eberle here make the experience even better?

RNH: “For sure. Even before I got drafted to the Oilers it was fun to watch Jordan and Taylor play together. I would think how much fun it would be to play with them. It definitely was, when we got the chance. We’re all around the same age and we know how each other plays. We’re just really excited about the future. The goal is to win a Stanley Cup in the next few years. Everybody has that mindset. Next year we want to make a serious playoff push.”

Q: What did you enjoy most about this season?

RNH: “I grew up watching the NHL and all my favourite players, so to actually play in those rinks, against the best players in the world, was pretty exciting.”

Q: I assume the worst part is spending most of the year in 29th? Does the team’s terrible season take some of the shine off your own year?

RNH: “It’s definitely tough to be in that position. We don’t ever want to have to go through this again. It’s not much fun when you’re in 29th, but I think we had the right intentions all along. It just wasn’t our year.

“I definitely would rather have a spectacular team season and an average individual season. I’d take that 100 times over the opposite, but it was still a good experience for me this first year. I learned a lot and hopefully I can take it into next year.”

Q: Should you win the Calder?

RNH: “It’s definitely tough to say. Other rookies have done great this year. To be honest, I never thought too much of it until the last month, when everybody started talking about it so much. It’s hard not to think about it now, but I’m not too worried about it. It’s pretty cool just being mentioned.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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