ST. PAUL, Minnesota — One Ryan or two? Maybe none?
Those are the two obvious storylines for the Edmonton Oilers heading into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft today and Jason Gregor and I are going to be all over them as the answers unfold at the Xcel Energy Center.
Will the Oilers use their second consecutive first overall pick to select centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels? That’s the shot we’ve been calling here are Oilersnation for weeks now, and despite some speculation that’s in doubt, it’s the likeliest bet.
The second storyline, one that’s developed rapidly in recent days, is the buzz that Ryan Smyth of the Los Angeles Kings has let it be known he’d like to return to Edmonton. That’s a wish Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi has indicated he will try to accommodate — perhaps as early as today.
Might the Oilers leave the draft floor today with both Nugent-Hopkins and Smyth in the fold? We’ll be on top of that, as well as tracking GM Steve Tambellini’s stated efforts to move up and get a second high pick in the first round, as the day unfolds.
I’ll be talking to scouts and GMs on the floor at the Xcel Energy Centre and keeping tabs with beat writers from other cities as the proceedings begin today and I’ll be posting regular updates starting at about 3 p.m. Edmonton time, so check back regularly.
AS IT HAPPENS . . .
— 12:45: We’re hearing, and TSN is reporting on its website, that Winnipeg has been received permission from the NHl to reinstate the name Jets for next season. The question now, did the Winnipeg group anticipate this and will they have a Jets hat and jersey for whoever they take with the seventh selection?
— 1:02: Smyth to Calgary rumours rampant, as per Gord Miller etc., but no confirmation on a deal yet.
— 1:04: As per Stauffer: Oilers scouting staff said to be unanimous on taking Nugent-Hopkins.
— 4:01: TSN will have a shot of the top prospects, including Nugent-Hopkins, casually strolling into the Xcel Energy Center together as part of their coverage today. I know this because I watched them set it up . . .
— 4:50: Time flies. Just ran into Harold Snepsts, who was one of my favourite players during his days with the Vancouver Canucks. For all my travels around the NHL, I haven’t seen old Hammerin’ Harry in 20 years. He’s sporting the shaved dome now and has to be pushing 60 years old. He was a tough SOB back in the day.
— 5:07: Just had a quick chat with Nugent-Hopkins on his way to do another interview. He says the nerves are holding up pretty well. Said he had a chance to talk to Hall today and he seems to be happily taking in everything around him. Pretty calm and cool customer, this kid.
— 5:22: Former Oilers chief scout Kevin Prendergast on Nugent-Hopkins: ‘He’s a special player."
— 5:28: Mike Gillis holding court with Vancouver beat writers . . . Hall doing an interview with Stauffer . . . a bunch of fans in a section up in the nosebleeds have been chanting "Go Jets Go" for the last 30 minutes . . . Ken Wiebe, a Winnipeg hockey writer, tells me it’s doubtful the Jets will have a team jersey for their first pick because no design has been approved by the NHL and it’s not a given the new outfit will be the same as the new one, even if the name is the same.
— 5:35: I’m told by a scout the Avs are taking Landeskog.
— 6:05: Just waiting on The Count to get festivities rolling . . . once the Oilers make their pick, I’ll be posting comments from RNH here as soon as I get back from his availability . . .
— 6:10: If the Oilers can move Brule in the Smyth trade that at least takes a little bite out of the overpay on Smyth’s salary. That’s a deal I’d be shaking hands on right now.
— 6:15: Smyth deal done, according to TSN.
— 6:17: Standing ovation for the family of E.J. MaGuire. Classy.
— 6:22: Tambellini calls the shot — NUGENT-HOPKINS. Big smile from the kid.
THE KID SAYS . . .
7:28 (After 35 minutes of computer malfunction and language you don’t want to hear . . .)
— "It feels amazing. I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now. I mean, all the nerves are finally starting to go away and it just feels great."
— "When my name got called, it definitely didn’t hit my until I got up on stage and shook Steve Tambellini’s hand again. I’m just very excited about this opportunity."
— "Just from what people were saying I had a rough idea, but I mean I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m really just relieved."
— 7:30: Will be getting Tambellini and Stu MacGregor for their comments after the first round. Stay tuned for that . . . it as KP who called Colorado and Landeskog . . .
— 7:55: Some action around the Oilers table, but I can’t see who Tambellini was talking to . . . nice eyesight, Brownlee . . . still guys available Tambellini would be very happy with 19th . . . Jamie Oleksiak and Oscar Klefbom.
— 8:10: NY Rangers have Aaron Boogaard make the 15th pick for them in honour of brother Derek. It’s J.T. Miller. Nice touch by the Rangers.
— 8:17: Hearing again, this time from sources close to Oilers, the Smyth deal involving Brule is done. Still no official word from the team.
— 8:37: Chicago takes Mark McNeill, who the Oilers really wanted at 19th. That’s Oleksiak and McNeill gone, which leads me to Klefbom.
— 8:40: Tambellini up on stage with Bettman early for the pick . . . it’s KLEFBOM
— 9:05: We’ve read the scouting reports on Klefbom. I asked him to provide Oilers fans will one of his own, Here’s what he said:
"Now, the have a really big, strong defenseman. A really ambitious guy and a very competitive person. I try to be better every day. I have some good leadership, as well. I’ll try to give them that."
MORE FROM NUGENT-HOPKINS, courtesy of NHL transcripts
— 9:55 Q. Did anybody say anything in that moment to you?
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS: I don’t know if they did, I don’t think I could
even remember right now.
Q. You talked yesterday a little bit about the possibility of going
back for another year at Junior. Now that you know it’s the Oilers, have
they talked to you at all about their thoughts in that regard?
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS: Not really. But I mean from what I’ve heard,
Steve’s in no rush to get me playing. But if I do go back to Junior, I
won’t be disappointed at all. It will be a great opportunity for us, Red
Deer, as a team to hopefully to get to the Memorial Cup.
Personally it will be a good year of development for me too, but my
goal now is to make the Oilers right now.
Q. You’re in with a group of guys that are all coming up at the same
time. Can you just speak to the excitement about being part of something
that seems like it’s building pretty well?
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS: Yeah, definitely it’s going to be great. I’m
definitely going to be able to relate to all the young guys in the system
already. So just joining a group like that is very exciting for me. I
just can’t wait to get started.
Q. The World Juniors are going to be in Edmonton in Calgary. I know
the NHL’s dream, but on the same token won’t it kind of be neat considering
where you’re located?
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS: Yeah, definitely, if I didn’t make the Oilers,
hopefully I can make the World Junior squad, and that will be a great
opportunity for me as well.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.