It goes without saying that fans of the Edmonton Oilers deserve a little bit of good news after seven seasons of mostly misery. They got some from centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins regarding his surgically repaired shoulder after he took a twirl on the ice today.
With RNH’S return to the frozen sheet barely underway in the wake of his surgery back on April 23, Jim Matheson of The Journal tweeted: "RNH buzzing and ripping wrist shots in skate with Oil guys. Shoulder surgery looks like it worked."
While Matheson’s a veteran eye around the rink to be sure, he’s no doctor, and it’s going to be awhile before Edmonton’s staff of doctors and trainers agree, at least for public consumption, with that diagnosis.
That said, Nugent-Hopkins, although somewhat guarded, sounded optimistic about his recovery when he met with reporters after the skate. That, framed by suggestions from 630 CHED radio analyst Bob Stauffer in recent weeks that Nugent-Hopkins might be ready for Edmonton’s season-opening game Oct. 1 against the Winnipeg Jets, is unquestionably good news – unofficial or not.
WHAT HE SAID
"I think I’m going to be on the ice with the guys right away. I’ll probably wear a yellow (no contact) jersey to start," Nugent-Hopkins said. "It’s feeling good and I’m just excited to get back here and get going.
"It feels good right now, but I know it has to heal and I have to get my strength back. There are going to be a lot of discussions with the doctor and the medical staff over the next few weeks. I’ve just got to make sure its 100 percent before I go out there."
Again, until Edmonton’s medical staff gives the 20-year-old Nugent-Hopkins the green light, what he says and what radio and newspaper guys say doesn’t put him on the ice Oct. 1. Given all the fun the Oilers have had with shoulder issues in recent seasons, patience is prudent. Still, what we heard today beats the hell out of "Well, it’s still pretty sore . . ."
If Nugent-Hopkins can be anywhere near 100 per cent physically at or near the start of the season, even if there’s some rust on his game, it’ll could be a huge boost to a team that, as we’ve discussed at length, is thin down the middle even with No. 93 on the depth chart.
A SILVER LINING
Whether it’s a product of the rehab process or just a matter of physical maturation, Nugent-Hopkins will also be heading into his third training camp a touch bigger than he’s been in the past – he’s says he’s fluctuating at 180-185 pounds.
And, as Matheson noted, it looks like Nugent-Hopkins has a little more hum on his wrist shot than he’s shown previously. As an aside, I’m also guessing that a little more bulk and upper body strength won’t hurt him in the face-off circles, either.
"My shot feels great. It feels probably a little bit better than last season even," Nugent Hopkins said. "I’m definitely happy with that. It was something I wanted to improve, even if I didn’t have the surgery."
One more time, though, let’s not get carried away after one skating session.
"I think everybody is going to be a little bit cautious," he said. "It’s important to make sure that it’s going to be good for the rest of my career and make sure that it’s 100 percent when I start back up."
You can hear some of the questions RNH answered today here.
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