November 28 2012 09:35AM
It is nearly decision time for the Edmonton Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. With Canada’s selection camp for the World Juniors coming up, the team and player need to decide whether he will stay in Oklahoma playing AHL hockey or represent his country at the annual tournament.
Bob McKenzie, as he often does, shed some light on the issue this morning:
I believe RNH situation will be addressed this weekend but as long as he's up for it, I don't see Oilers as an impediment. It'll be his call— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 28, 2012
As Bruce McCurdy writes, the lockout represents a unique opportunity for Team Canada, as many players who would otherwise be playing in the NHL will be available for the high-profile under-20 tournament. After comparing the situation to that of Patrice Bergeron and the stacked 2005 World Juniors team, McCurdy points out that Nugent-Hopkins and the organization may be best-served by him staying in Oklahoma:
In Oklahoma City he is a key member of a core cluster of talent, a group which is growing together even as this damned lockout stretches on until the thirteenth of Forever. It’s a rare opportunity that has been afforded him and his mates. From the perspective of the Oilers organization it very well might make more sense that the Nuge work on chemistry with Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall than, say, Jonathan Huberdeau and Ty Rattie; or with Justin Schultz than Morgan Rielly.
While McCurdy strongly argues that a case can be made in favour of either decision – and I think he’s right on that – my hope is to see Nugent-Hopkins play at the tournament. The World Juniors don’t have the same profile as the Olympics, but thanks to their timing and excellent work by TSN they might be the next most popular tournament in Canada. Certainly they eclipse the World Championships, which are played out in the shadow of the NHL playoffs.
Nugent-Hopkins didn’t get a chance to play in them last year the way most top young Canadians do, thanks to a spectacular rookie season in the NHL. He’s getting a second opportunity with the lockout and it would be a shame to pass on it so that he can keep riding buses in the AHL.
Oklahoma too might find hidden benefits with the absence of Nugent-Hopkins for a few games. Maybe his departure from the lineup means that Taylor Hall finally gets an audition at center. At the very worst, it means more opportunities for prospects like Anton Lander, who might get a boost from playing with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, even if only for a short time.
That’s an afterthought, though. The main point is that the World Juniors are a special tournament, and that Nugent-Hopkins has a chance to star in them.
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