TORONTO - The Nuge would be huge in his home province.
But it’s not yet clear if the Edmonton Oilers will match the Central Scouting Bureau’s (CSB) selection and pick him first overall.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is tailor made for the high-flying Oilers, who’ve tracked him down the road with the Red Deer Rebels the past three years. He capped this season with 75 assists and 106 points, but some wonder if he’s too much a clone of Taylor Hall, who was last year’s No. 1 overall by the Oilers.
Two Swedes are among those sitting behind Nugent-Hopkins, 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenceman Adam Larsson, and the OHL-trained Gabriel Landeskog, who is as tall as Nugent-Hopkins, but more than 30 pounds heavier. Nugent-Hopkins bumped him from the No. 1 North American CSB rankings, while Larsson has held top post among European skaters.
Many believe Nugent-Hopkins would be better served by playing a final year of junior and with Edmonton not close to Cup contention, they could afford to be patient.
A player who jumped to prominence in the spring was Saint John Sea Dogs centre Justin Huberdeau, already in the top five, but who gained further exposure in the run to the Memorial Cup.
Last year, the Oilers were in the can’t-miss position of choosing between Hall and Tyler Seguin. Though Seguin went on to win the Stanley Cup with Boston, Hall had a better regular season with twice as many points as Seguin until an ankle injury.
“I really think this year is much more difficult than last year,” Oilers’ head amateur scout Stu MacGregor told the Edmonton Sun. “There are more players in the mix. Not to say that we won’t be able to sort it out, but there are some tremendous prospects and players who’ve shown that they require attention and consideration for the No. 1 pick.”
The Oilers own three picks in the top 31 (first, 19th and 31st). Right behind them in Friday’s first round will be the Colorado Avalanche and head amateur scout Rick Pracey says he’s got his man lined up no matter who Edmonton selects.
“In our minds, we’ve made our list; the order has been set and everything has been taken care of,” Pracey told NHL.com.
His club has the second and 11th choices.
“That top group, I don’t want to say it’s wide open by any means, but there’s certainly enough there that’s made this process very, very challenging. The one variable is what Edmonton decides. But certainly there are a lot of quality prospects.”