The star-crossed Oilers sustained yet another blow Monday night. Scoring center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left Edmonton's game against the Florida Panthers after he attempted to block a Dmitry Kulikov shot and took a puck off the hand. After the game, Oilers coach Todd McLellan announced Nugent-Hopkins would be "out long term."
Here's a look at the play that caused the injury to Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick of the 2011 draft:
It's a disaster for the Oilers on multiple levels. First of all, rookie Connor McDavid remains sidelined until after the all-star break recovering from his broken collarbone. The Oil are now without their top two pivots for an extended period of time. Leon Draisaitl moved to center in McDavid's absence and will be counted on even more until one of McDavid or 'The Nuge' returns.
Worse yet for the Oil, Nugent-Hopkins' injury may scupper trade plans. We know GM Peter Chiarelli offered 'The Nuge' to the Nashville Predators in an attempt to get Seth Jones before the Preds dealt Jones to Columbus for Ryan Johansen. Nugent-Hopkins was on the block. McDavid and Draisaitl are the future at center in Edmonton, so Chiarelli is smart to deal from a position of strength. Alas, a Nugent-Hopkins trade may have to wait until the off-season, depending on the official injury diagnosis. The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 29.
The only silver lining for the Oilers? They're still six points out of a Western Conference playoff berth and could become major draft lottery contenders as they attempt to soldier on without McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins.
Check back at THN for updates as we learn more about Nugent-Hopkins' status.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin