Commentary

Nugent-Hopkins' historic year

Before an injury sidelined him, the rookie was having an all-time great NHL debut

Updated: January 4, 2012, 12:12 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider
Ryan Nugent-HopkinsAndy Devlin/Getty ImagesRyan Nugent-Hopkins led rookies in goals, assists and points before suffering a shoulder injury.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the 2011 NHL entry draft, suffered a shoulder injury after playing less than four minutes in the first period during Monday's win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I don't know exactly what happened [to Nugent-Hopkins], or if there was a sniper in the press box, because he just fell down," Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "That happens, but in talking to him, he thought he caught an edge."

It's a huge blow to a franchise that has gone 4-11-1 in its last 16 games.

The Nuge, a former WHL rookie of the year, was named NHL rookie of the month in October and November, joining Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin as the only other player to earn the honor for the first two months of the season.

Neil Greenberg

Nugent-Hopkins also was leading rookies in goals (13), assists (22) and points (35), a 76-point pace that would be among the five-best rookie campaigns since the lockout. Having turned 18 years old last April, could he also be headed for one of the best rookie seasons of the modern era?

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.