When it comes to making the first overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota June 24-25, Edmonton Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor said last week that he has his guy. I believe MacGregor’s guy is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels.
I don’t know that to be the case because, in a series titled "From The Horse’s Mouth," MacGregor did not come out and say the Oilers will follow up last June’s selection of Taylor Hall by picking Nugent-Hopkins. I haven’t polled each and every member of MacGregor’s scouting staff and been told he’s the guy.
Likewise, neither GM Steve Tambellini nor president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe has slipped me a piece of paper with the name "Nugent-Hopkins" on it. Still, my gut and my ears spell tell me it’s the skilled kid who plays just an hour or so down the road, right here in Oil Country.
With Red Deer eliminated from the WHL playoffs since being beaten by Medicine Hat, Nugent-Hopkins won’t have the opportunity to further separate himself from the rest of the pack the way Hall did with the Windsor Spitfires a year ago, when he left Tyler Seguin in the dust. Still, what I read between the lines is there’s no need. He’s the guy.
"With the first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers are proud to select, from the Red Deer Rebels, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins . . ."
THE SKINNY FROM CSS
North American Skater
Red Deer, WHL
Final Rank: 1 Midterm Rank: 3
Position: Center Shoots: Left
Height: 6′ 0" Weight: 164
Born: April 12, 1993 Hometown: Burnaby, BC
Born in: Burnaby, BC, CAN
NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald
"(Nugent-Hopkins) has very good puck-handling capabilities. His on-ice awareness is very good. He’s one of those guys that knows where everyone is and where they should be and where the puck should go . . . He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand with that kind of vision. But not just the vision, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade — that’s hard to find."
— In 2010-11, Nugent-Hopkins led the WHL in assists (75), finished fourth overall in points (106) and was named an Eastern Conference First-Team All-Star after helping the Red Deer Rebels to a first place finish in the Central Division.
— He served as an assistant captain with Canada’s Under-18 team at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in the Czech Republic, where he won gold and scored the game-winning goal, beating the U.S. 1-0.
Scouting Report: "He’s got high-end skills, vision and hockey sense."
Projection: "A first-line centre."
Best Case Scenario: "Very good first-line centre."
Concerns: "I don’t think it’s size. It’s physical strength."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.