Decisions, decisions, decisions we all have to make them and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is no different. However, his decision has changed a nation’s hope for a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Another game and another three-point effort for Nugent-Hopkins in a 4-1 victory over the arch-rival Russians on Monday.
It means an automatic trip to the semifinals in Ufa, Russia, and one win away from yet another gold medal game. They’ve come a long way from the week before the start of Team Canada’s camp in Calgary when RNH’s status for the World Juniors was in limbo. His shoulder being looked over and over and over again to make sure there were no lingering issues from the problem he suffered in his rookie season. Once the shoulder got the ok then Nugent-Hopkins gave Canada the ok.
Second chances in life don’t always come along. RNH had his and wasn’t about to give it up. On one hand continue playing with Oklahoma City and hanging with his teammates of the present and future. On the other hand play in the World Juniors. The easy decision might have been to stay in the AHL with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz. Life was comfortable, success was happening for him (20pts in 19 games) and for the team. Out of the spotlight and enjoying some peace and quiet in a non -traditional hockey market.
The other option was to play for a traditional hockey market called Canada, where everyone knows your name and your game.
I can only imagine the lift everyone in Hockey Canada felt when Nugent-Hopkins made the commitment to his country. Didn’t have too but instead wanted too. I’m sure he has no regrets with two more games to go. He’s done his part and more, with 11 points in four games to lead the tournament in scoring. Wearing the ‘C’ means leading in other ways which, by all accounts, RNH has done as well. For those that thought that leaving the AHL for a month would slow his development, I would have to disagree. Furthermore, he seems like a player brimming with even more confidence and understanding, that when his NHL life resumes he can be looked upon as not just a scorer but a leader.
What he missed out on as a 17-year-old prospect, he is now doing as a 19-year-old NHL player. A long wait, but one well worth it for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Canada. (It was the right decision and Ryan Nuge it all along.)