Should Ryan Nugent-Hopkins play in the World Juniors?

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:

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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  • vetinari

    I think that the Nuge may have outgrown junior play and tournaments. As a Team Canada fan, he’d be a great addition; but as an Oilers fan, I’d rather see him continue playing against men in OKC and let some of the other Canadian junior centres carry the mail in this tournament. And of course, there are other teams with quality Canadian centres under 20 who could benefit from the tournament. My worry would be for some punk trying to make a name for himself try and take a run at the Nuge in the tournament and his only backup would be other teenagers.

  • vetinari

    I say he should go for it, if only to give Hallsy and maybe Lander a bit more to do in the minors.

    Also, any idea if Paajarvi could possibly play center? Has he ever taken any draws?

  • TKB2677

    At this point with Nuge already having 1 NHL season under his belt, playing in the World Juniors is a waste of his time. If the NHL continues to be locked out, he should stay in the AHL continue to work on his game and play against men.
    What value does Nuge get from dominating a bunch of draft eligible kids and other drafted players that haven’t made the NHL? The only benefit is to Hockey Canada to ice a better team.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    It’s literally a once in a lifetime opportunity for him now. I think you have to look past the development standpoint and consider this at least partially on a personal level for The Nuge. The WJHC means a lot to the guys who play in it. I heard Jonathan Toews on TSN the other day talking about how him and Patrick Kane still go on about the 2007 tourney, and these are guys with great NHL careers who have won Stanley Cups.

    Let Nuge have this, it’s kind of a sh*tty move to deny him this experience to play 3-4 extra weeks in the AHL.

    • StHenriOilBomb

      I fully agree. I imagine too, that Hall and Ebs have shared more than a few stories of their epic WJCs. How could he not want to have that experience?

  • I'm a Scientist!

    He already has the established chemistry with Eberle and Hall. Let somebody else build that chemistry and let the kid experience the World Jrs. Also, selfishly, it lets us watch him play on television!

    Maybe the lockout will end before then and we don’t need to worry about it anyway! *dripping with so much sarcasm that he drowns*

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    That RNH-Eberle-Hall line is really rolling right now too. Tough to put a stop to a good thing. But this is RNH’s last and only chance to play at the WJHC. Not only would it be a great experience for him now, an excellent WJHC campaign may translate into Olympic team consideration.

    Plus it would be a bonus for Oiler fans to see an Oiler on Team Canada. That way, we don’t have to secretly cheer for Yakupov and Team Russia.

  • Spydyr

    If the Nuge wants to play the team should let him.

    It is a once in a lifetime chance.

    Looks like that will be the best hockey to watch till the Worlds in the spring.So load up team Canada.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I’ve added a few tweets from Corey Pronman to show the different opinions on player development. I am not doing this to be contradictory or ignorant, just find this to be a compelling subject given the lockout. I also read an article in the Journal(link below)regarding Seguin lighting up the Swiss league. I find this topic interesting, specifically… where young NHL players, who are still developing their skills, should play given the situation. Are Hall, Ebs and RNH better off playing in the AHL, or should they have followed the likes of Seguin and played elsewhere,or did Yak get it right playing the KHL…I guess I don’t really have a point except there are a lot of diverging opinions amongst people in regards to player developement given the lockout.
    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/Tyler+Seguin+lighting+Swiss+hockey+league+doing+style/7616343/story.html

    @coreypronman
    Did this before. I’m indifferent, but lean AHL. RT @NikolaiWR: @coreypronman do you think RNH would benefit from playing WJs or AHL?

    @coreypronman
    Neither will. AHL less bad. RT @Ryan_Eaky: @coreypronman believe playing 2 weeks of AHL will benefit RNH better than playing for Canada?

    @coreypronman
    Nugent-Hopkins is a quality NHLer now. Being one of the best in AHL or clearly the best in the WJC isn’t really ideal for development.

  • The Nuge should ask Eberle what he thinks. Then, he should go play for his country.

    *ring ring*

    RNH: Hello?

    Canada: Hi Ryan, this is Canada. We were wondering if you would like to play for us in the upcoming tournament.

    RNH: You’re damn right I would.

    Canada: Cool.

    RNH: Ahhh yeah! *does a James Brown spin*

    *click*

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Nooooo DSF will say that RNH is a bust cause couldnt keep himself in the top three AHL players…and nobody nobody cant argue with him…..

    • Truth

      Or…

      Canada: Hey Nuge you want to come play for Canada at the WJC?

      RNH: Oh, is that the tournament that I was cut from the team prior to going first overall in the NHL entry draft the same year?

      Canada: uhh, yes it was Nuge, sorry about that.

      RNH: Oh Ok thanks but no thanks, I’ll win gold for Canada in Sochi in a couple years. Besides, I’m in the top 5 in scoring in the AHL and am looking forward to being a #1 center in the NHL when the season starts. Good luck though.

  • Rocket

    Playing a rather meaningless AHL regular season game is less valuable than measuring oneself against peers in an extremely meaningful international tournament. RNH has very little experience playing meaningful, pressure cooker games such as those in the WJHC. Not only is there a tonne of pressure to win, Nudge will be in a leadership role for the first time in a while. Without a doubt, 100% send him over, let him lead, gain confidence and experience real pressure. Because in Edmonton he will have to deal with these situations more and more. Last year he wasn’t evaluated whatsoever and Renney let the kids play. In junior, Red Deer never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. This WJHC is an experience he desperately needs. Don’t be ridiculous and think he will lose chemistry with the other prospects in the Oiler system. A good player can step in and play with any other players who share a high hockey IQ at any time. Prove to us how good you are RNH, I can’t wait to see.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      I agree, in the absence of real Hockey, it’d be nice to stock this tournament with the best available players.

      It’s not like the tournament is going to hurt the guy’s development, he’s a freakin wizard.

      And I would like to see one of the other prospects get a shot at the top line and see how they do. The way I see it, Nuge going to the tournament is nothing but good for the fans, for the prospects, and eventually for the Oilers in general.

      Plus it will be great to see Nuge line up against Yak.

      • Spydyr

        “in the absence of real Hockey”

        And that folks is why the NHL is not worried about losing fan support.

        For the love of all things good…..All hockey is real hockey!

  • charliedont

    Reminder: The tournament is in Russia this year. It’s not like you’ll be watching the Nuge in the evenings over brews with your buddies. More likely wiping your eyes after the alarm clock wakes you up at 5am.

    • Not just Russia, but Ufa, which is in the Yekaterinberg Time Zone — 13 hours ahead of MST! That means a *night* game at 7 p.m. there starts here at 6 a.m. Afternoon games, of which there are a $#!+ton in any tournament format, will be in the overnight hours.

      In Canada’s case it’s three starts at 2:30 am. MST, followed by the can’t-miss New Year’s Eve game vs Russia at 7 a.m. That’s a Monday morning, so nice and convenient!

      Pretty much the worst since Nagano, maybe even less convenient than that if that’s possible.

  • Bishai in the Benches

    I just want him to participate in the WJC so that I can actually see him play on TV.. But I’m an unselfish guy so it’s probably best for his development to stay in the AHL and work on chemistry.

  • Hair bag

    Two weeks in the World Junior tournament isn’t going to affect his overall development at all other than some playoff type experience on a major stage and maybe a leadership role. It should be about him and the experience that he will have and the memories that he will keep for the rest of his life. I agree with some of the other posts – if they asked Hall and Eberle I bet they would drive him to the airport!