Not since Erik Johnson in 2006 has a first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft failed to play a full season after being selected. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could change that.
The first overall pick in Minnesota’s draft four months ago is a virtual lock to be on the ice on October 9th when Edmonton welcomes the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is no guarantee Nugent-Hopkins, though, to be a mainstay in the Edmonton Oilers lineup beyond his first nine games.
The Red Deer Rebels, the centre’s junior squad, is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
The expectation Red Deer has is 50/50 on getting him back according to a source close to the team, and the Rebels aren’t expecting to see Nugent-Hopkins before November, if at all. The team didn’t require Nugent-Hopkins to join them in training camp this season.
So why does Red Deer have a hope of a returning Ryan?
There’s no questioning the skill of Nugent-Hopkins.
What does come into consideration is the physical stature of the Burnaby, BC. nature. While Nugent-Hopkins has put on 10 pounds of muscle since his trip to the podium on draft day, many still question just how durable the six-foot, 171-pound centre can be against NHL opposition.
He was rarely hit in junior, but Nugent-Hopkins has to dodge harder checks more frequently at the pro level.
That fact didn’t stop Alex Burmistrov, who made his NHL debut last year at just over 160-pounds. Patrick Kane, weighing just 162-pounds at the 2007 draft, went on to score 72 points in 82 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in his rookie year.
But rushing Nugent-Hopkins to the NHL is a gamble the Oilers may be willing to take.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!