With the Oilers season going as expected, the future still looks bright. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and the rest of the bunch have the potential to accomplish great things for the City of Champions.
Another exciting piece of news is that once again our franchise will own the rights to a top five pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After all, the Oilers are not the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This past Saturday the Red Deer Rebels came into Edmonton to play the Oil Kings. The 6,000 fans in attendance saw both an impressive defensive performance by the Oil Kings in a 3-0 shutout, as well as projected top three pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins play.
Nugent-Hopkins currently leads the Red Deer Rebels with 32 points, including 25 assists. Nugent-Hopkins is a smaller forward who relies on his speed, but has the ability to play a shutdown role as well.
In a recent Rebels game in Vancouver against the Giants, he held WHL leading scorer Craig Cunningham to zero points and just one shot on goal. This was quite an accomplishment considering Cunningham, a Boston Bruins draft choice, is nearly three-years-older than Nugent-Hopkins and has played in the WHL longer than he has.
Also, Nugent-Hopkins is very good on face offs, winning nearly 60 percent of his face offs on Saturday night. Another thing to note is that he is an alternate captain despite being one of the youngest members of his team. Leadership qualities at a young age are a very positive factor.
I had the pleasure of talking to Ryan for a couple of minutes before the game; here were his thoughts.
SV: “This being your draft year, how do things change compared to previous years in terms of the preparation?”
RNH: “Obviously, because this is my draft year, I have to come to the rink prepared every day and can’t take any nights off, because the scouts are always watching and they notice that. I feel I have a bigger role on my team this year also, so that makes me want to play better and give everything I’ve got to this team.”
SV: “Over the years who have you patterned your game after?”
RNH: “I love the way Crosby plays, and Pavel Datsyuk is such a good offensive and defensive player, so he’s a really good guy for any player to want to model themselves after. And Jason Spezza is one of the best playmakers in the game today. I take a lot of pride in being a playmaker on the ice too, so he’s been a good role model for me.”
SV: “If you get drafted by the Oilers, what team will you demand a trade too?”
RNH: (Laughs) “They look like an exciting team, with a solid future ahead of them.”
SV: “In all seriousness, what are your thoughts on going to a rebuilding team like the Oilers, a team that’s not ready to compete yet?”
RNH: “I would like that—they’re a young team with a lot of skill. They’re in a big rebuilding process right now, and in a few years they’re going to have a really good team. Going to a program with so much excitement around it like there is in Edmonton would be really cool.”
Nugent-Hopkins presents the Oilers with an interesting choice. Almost assured of a top five pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, there are a couple of routes they can travel.
Nugent-Hopkins has the ability to play well at both ends of the ice, however the QMJHL’s Sean Couturier is a more dynamic offensive player. And let’s not forget about Adam Larsson, the big Swedish defenseman known for his shutdown abilities.
It is a big question indeed. Thankfully Steve Tambellini has the next seven months to make up his mind.