Red Deer torn on Nugent-Hopkins

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:14 AM ET

EDMONTON - And so how is Red Deer taking all this?

It’s official. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going to start the season with the Edmonton Oilers. He will have nine games, or until Sam Gagner returns to the lineup to prove himself to be a full-time NHLer, delaying his possible return to the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

“I think it’s universal among Rebels fans that they would love to have him back,” said radio play-by-play man and director of media Cam Moon of watching what will transpire in the next nine games.

“Who wouldn’t? He’s a world-class player and a world-class person.”

But because of that most fans have a bit of a split personality on the subject, he said.

“Everybody in Central Alberta also wish the best for him and realize he’s going to be a star for the Oilers, likely sooner than later.”

Rebels head coach and VP hockey operations Jesse Wallin says they can only wait and watch for two or three weeks longer and see how this plays out.

“Hoppy’s situation is out of our control, so we can’t worry about it. Of course, we would love to have him back in Red Deer, and I certainly don’t think it would be detrimental to him in any way to come back and play junior for another season and have the opportunity to be a veteran presence and a leader on this team.

“My understanding is that he’ll get every opportunity to make their team. If he makes it, good for him — that’s what it’s all about. If he’s not quite ready, we’ll welcome him back with open arms and be happy to continue working with him.

“Ultimately, we just want what’s best for Ryan to become the best player he can, both now and long-term. And one thing that I think is important for everyone to understand is that this player is a special talent. If he needs a bit more time to grow and mature for that talent to blossom fully, there’s no shame or failure in that.”


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