Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ name will be on Hockey Canada’s selection camp list Monday, and barring injury the Edmonton Oilers centre will play for Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Russia.
“He told me late Friday night, ‘I want to play for my country. I just want to play in that tournament,’” Nugent-Hopkins’ agent Rick Valette told Sportsnet.ca on Sunday morning. “He wants to win a gold medal. My instincts tell me that he’ll play.”
On Sunday Nugent-Hopkins was on his way up to Edmonton from Oklahoma City, where he is spending the lockout with the Oilers’ American Hockey League farm team. He is currently tied for seventh in points in the AHL, with eight goals and 20 points in 19 Barons games.
Nugent-Hopkins will have his left shoulder looked at as a precautionary measure before committing to Team Canada. He injured that shoulder twice last season with the Oilers, and then had surgery in the offseason.
“The only reason he wouldn’t want to go is because of his health,” said Valette, who stressed the check-up with purely precautionary, and that Nugent-Hopkins’ shoulder has held up fine in the AHL.
The Oilers management team was hoping Nugent-Hopkins would opt to play for Canada, sources indicate, though remaining in Oklahoma City would not have been adverse to his development either. GM Steve Tambellini and the Oilers front office will fully support his decision to travel to Russia with Team Canada over the Christmas break, where he’ll miss at least five Barons games.
“He wants to play,” Valette reiterated. “He wants to win a gold medal for Canada.”
Nugent-Hopkins has not played in a World Junior tournament, and this will be the last one he is eligible for. You can bet that Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall — two WJHC veterans who are playing in OKC with Nugent-Hopkins — urged him to experience a World Junior while he is still eligible to do so.