It was no surprise that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was invited to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp.
After a fantastic rookie campaign, one that saw him as a Calder Trophy finalist for rookie of the year, RNH has continued his remarkable play in the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons.
The only real question surrounding RNH and his fate with Hockey Canada is whether or not the Oilers would let him go, with talk circulating that his injured shoulder isn't quite 100 percent yet.
The Oilers did their due diligence and had the shoulder evaluated before finally agreeing to allow Nugent-Hopkins to play for Canada, but if the talented young centerman’s shoulder isn’t quite healed, was this the best decision for both the player and the franchise going forward?
After being released from the World Junior team as a 17-year-old in 2010, of course Nugent-Hopkins would want to participate in the prestigious tournament.
He has the skills to do so, and will be asked to shoulder (no pun intended) the load for the team, as made evident by his selection as team captain, but if there is a lingering injury he is putting himself at risk.
Aside from the pride of representing his country, there is very little to gain by attending this tournament. The Burnaby, B.C. native has already established himself as an elite player, more than capable of competing against men in the National Hockey League.
There would have been quite the backlash of media scrutiny if the Oilers had decided not to allow “The Nuge” to play for Canada, especially if they continued to allow him to play for their farm team in Oklahoma.
A headache perhaps too great for Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe.
The Oilers have always supported major international tournaments and have always done what they could as a franchise to accommodate both player and country when it comes to such events, but at the end of the day this is a question about the health of a player who will play a significant part in any future plans that Edmonton has.