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 . . ."


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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.

  • Mantastic

    Some want to compare gagner to RNH because of size. The big difference that I see is gagner played on a stacked London team. Gagner wasn’t the best player on that team. RNH is the best player for red deer. He’s also a player that makes his marginally good team mates look good. I’ve also read that he has all the tools to help make him a very good player in the NHL. Speed, smarts, skill, and vision. They say if you have two of those you’ll be an NHL player and so on.

    I agree that we need to get better this off season. We need a couple impact vet players. A faceoff winning centre and another solid dman would help dramatically. If we were a better faceoff team a lot of our deficiencies would be corrected.

    One last note on size is todays game is well suited for the smaller player.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      But not Veteran players whom get big bucks for putting pucks in the net but more solid Defensive players to not only teach Defense but allow those future superstars to shine in those rolls such as power-play.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I wonder if trading down would work. We need a bunch of players to get us to playoff calibre. What about trading the first overall for Bogosian and Atlanta’s 7th overall pick. We would have a shot at either Couturier, Strome or Huberdeau. Solves two problems right away, especially if there is no clear cut first pick. Atlanta (Winnipeg) needs a splash, and 1st overall is a good start, and Bogosian is now a bottom pairing dman who is due a raise. Helps both teams.

    • Mark-LW

      If scouting firmly believes RNH will be a legit first line centre then you never never trade away that pick. We all know just how easy it is to find one of those right?

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          I just don’t see this happening.

          If Colorado wants Larsson, I can almost garauntee they already know Edmonton is drafting RNH. Why would they give up anything more than a late pick (which aren’t worth that much). Take the best player and don’t bother risking losing him – it’s not wroth it!

          Plus, how good would RNH feel that Edmonton traded down instead of jsut calling his name. Giving RNH the bonus of being a 1st overall pick and saying we want you really badly to everyone is worth more than a late draft pick.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Projection: “A first-line centre.”

    Best Case Scenario: “Very good first-line centre.”

    Very nice, although I was hoping for:

    Best Case Scenario: “Second coming of Christ”

    because thats what the Oilers need.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Great series, Robin. Thanks for writing these.

    So based on these, I would say MacGregor’s rankings are probably

    1. RNH
    2. Couturier
    3. Larsson
    4. Huberdeau
    5. Landeskog

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if Strome, Hamilton or some other others were slotted ahead of Huberdeau or Landeskog based on what was said about them.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I have no Question in my mind that they have to take this guy. If he blossoms in to someone able to dish a pass OR score he will indeed drive the other teams nuts. #99 was always a double threat and that is what made him so dangerous if RNH puts up half the Numbers #99 did we would be so thrilled. Then to have Hall and Eberle as well all I can say is look out in 2-3 years. Yes there are many other holes but we will find those guys. I really hope we fill some holes in free agent land this summer. I don’t need a super star but some good solid players. I really agree with “Grapes on HNIC” when he told the Oilers not to let these guys get used to loosing. HOPE may be important but it will only work if they all have hope, real hope.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Great, so with RNH, both Cogs and Gags have to be moved in 2-3 years depending on what RNH timeline is to the NHL (see Kyle Turris).

    Tambi needs to move Gags and his 31st to move into a top 6 and grab Dougie Hamilton


    Gags and the 19th Pick and move into a top 4 position to grab Larsson.

    • fuck off

      You’re almost right: they move up to grab Couturier, not Larsson. Top 3 are going to be RNH, Larrson and Landeskog. Couturier could slide a little but not much beyound 4th-6th.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Why does that have to be done now? What happens if RNH is no better than Gagner? Moving yet another proven player for a draft pick is just going to get us another lottery pick.

      Sure some want that lottery pick, but how long are Hall, MPS, Eberle and others going to want to lose?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Edit: I’m not that kind of guy.

    So going by your articles this would seem to be the #1 right now. Question is whether or not the Oil take RNH or if they trade down.