Oilers lock up Nugent-Hopkins

Third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau, first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and second overall...

Third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau, first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog pose for photos during the NHL draft in St. Paul, Minn., June 24, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

EDMONTON - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still trying to wrap his head around everything that is associated with being the first overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

On Saturday, the Edmonton Oilers top pick signed a three-year entry-level contract with the club, that will pay him the rookie maximum of $925,000 per season, plus bonuses.

“I was very excited when I got that call (about the contract),” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It’s pretty incredible and I can just focus on just the hockey part now. I’ll train hard this summer, put on a few more pounds and get back on the ice.”

Last season, Nugent-Hopkins scored 31 goals and added 75 assists for 106 points in 69 games as a 17-year-old with the Red Deer Rebels.

Starting Monday, the native of Burnaby, B.C., will take part in the Oilers prospect camp. Later this summer, he’ll also participate in Team Canada’s World Junior development camp.

“There’s not much negotiation with the first overall pick,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “Everyone knows what it’s going to be and he deserves that contract. It’s a huge moment in his career and his family’s career, and I can’t wait to see him with the rest of the guys at our development camp.

“We know what he is as a hockey player and what he’s going to be, but I don’t think people know how quality a person he is. He’s a respectful young man that respects the game, he has an incredible amount of respect for the Edmonton Oilers and I look forward to working with him for many years.”

Just over a week ago, Nugent-Hopkins became the latest face of the future for the Oilers franchise when selected with the first pick.

Things have been non-stop since, with an seemingly endless line of media requests and promotional appearances.

Saturday, Nugent-Hopkins was the guest of honour at the Edmonton Capitals game against the Maui Na Koa Ikaika, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

“Things have definitely sunk in a little more,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I’ve had a chance to go back to Red Deer to work out and let it hit me a little bit.

“It’s definitely been a good week, but it still seems a little surreal. I never really knew what to expect. It’s definitely been a whirlwind, but I’m having a lot of fun and I’m just very grateful about it.”

The busy summer will get even busier for Nugent-Hopkins as he takes part in the two development camps in the next few weeks, all while preparing to attend his first NHL camp in the fall.

The six-foot centre is hoping to be between 175 and 180 pounds by the time Oilers rookie camp rolls around.

He was listed at 164 pounds at the draft.

“I don’t want to put on too much bulk and then lose some other aspects of my game,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I think 175 and 180 pounds would be realistic.”

Unlike last year’s first overall pick, Taylor Hall, there won’t be as much pressure on Nugent-Hopkins to make an immediate impact with the Oilers next season.

He’ll head to camp with every intention of making the team. However, if the club feels Nugent-Hopkins is not ready for the NHL, they will not hesitate to send him back for another year of seasoning in Red Deer.

“Ryan and I have spoken about that,” said Tambellini. “I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll approach this training camp to make the Edmonton Oilers. If that’s the way it is, so be it. If he doesn’t, we’ve talked about that, there is no rush with this player. He’s going to have an incredibly busy summer here. We have some time to figure that out. I just want him now to relax and prepare.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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