SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Nugent-Hopkins keen to impress

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:38 PM ET

EDMONTON - Hes a been a great player most of his life, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has only been an NHL first pick overall for a few months, and it still takes some getting used to.

He stepped into a brand new world when the Edmonton Oilers called his name in Minnesota a world of engagements, appearances, interviews, meetings, training schedules and instant celebrity status.

And that was only the summer.

Now its fall, and this is where it starts getting real.

Im starting to feel it more and more, said the the 18-year-old centre, wholl be playing his first game as Oilers property Sunday at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C., the first steps in his quest to prove hes ready for NHL prime time.

Its great being here and great being in this environment. I watched the highlights from last year and saw how well some of the guys like Paajarvi, Hall and Eberle did, so Im very excited for it.

Who isnt? There will be plenty of talent on display when the Oilers, Flames, Canucks, Jets and Sharks sic their best young prospects on each other, but all eyes are always on a new No. 1.

This is the first chance to see him in a pro environment, going full speed against bigger, stronger, faster and more talented opponents than he saw in junior.

Im going to do everything I can to stand out as much as I can, said Nugent-Hopkins, wholl be under the same microscope that burned a hole in Halls back last year only more intense, given that he doesnt have Eberle and Paajarvi to absorb some of the glare. Im going to take this very seriously and do everything I can to make a good first impression. But Im also not going to change anything, Im just going to play my game.

The Oilers prospects play Vancouver on Sunday, Winnipeg on Tuesday and close out the camp against Calgary on Wednesday.

The schedule suits the kid fine because his style thinking one step ahead of the pack, being in the right place at the right time, making a deft pass off the cycle shows itself better in games than in line rushes.

Not many guys show everything they have during practices, he said. Getting into game situations, the coaches will have a better opportunity to see what everybody is about.

Head Coach Tom Renney says nobody is making the Oilers based on what they do at a prospects camp, but admits hes as eager as anyone to see what the kid is all about.

In no way shape or form have I drawn a conclusion as to whether hes on the outside looking in or the inside looking out, said Renney.

Its a process and were going to respect that. Im not going to pretend that I know the ins and outs of Ryans game. When I give myself the luxury of not just watching him in Penticton, but watching him in training camp, I will be able to draw some conclusions. At this point in time, I dont know.

Just from brief summer scrimmages with Oilers players, Nugent-Hopkins can tell the NHL is going to be a huge step up.

Just getting out and skating with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff and Hemsky and all those guys it was like, WOW, Im here and Im hopefully going to make the team this year, he said, adding Hemsky stood out particularly. Just how quick he is and how quick his hands are. In scrimmage hes put it through one guy, toe drag around another guy. It was pretty impressive. I can only hope to have hands and quick feet like that.


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