Principe on Oilers: A weight is lifted

August 2, 2011, 10:22 PM

175.

That’s the answer to the question that all Edmonton Oiler fans have been wondering. The question being, how many pounds does Ryan Nugent-Hopkins weigh?

Nugent-Hopkins gave the answer upon his arrival in Edmonton for the National Junior Development Camp which begins on Wednesday.

Nugent-Hopkins knows that’s what primarily is on the minds of the team that drafted him and the fans who follow that team. Actually that might be considered secondary to whether he’ll be playing for Edmonton this season.

My answer to that question would be a resounding yes. I feel that way even though Steve Tambellini, as Edmonton’s GM, has always said the club’s first pick wouldn’t be pressed into NHL action. He said that even before they drafted Nugent-Hopkins.

Edmonton must truly believe that because last summer, after Taylor Hall went first overall he did not attend this camp, which in essence, meant he couldn’t play for Canada at the World Juniors. The Oilers felt Hall was a slam dunk to make the team. They are not taking the same approach with the first-overall pick in 2011. Nugent-Hopkins says he wasn’t at all thrown off by taking part in this summer session even though former No. 1′s like Hall and Steven Stamkos took a pass because their NHL team awaited them.

That’s not the clear-cut case with Nugent-Hopkins but I don’t see why this kid can’t do it the old-fashioned way and earn his way onto the team. Being No. 1 is a huge head start but I don’t get the sense he will be handed anything — that includes a job.

Nugent-Hopkins was cut from last year’s world junior team and would be a lock to be in Edmonton one way or the other during the Christmas holidays. The Burnaby, B.C. native said it’s been a dream of his to play for the junior team. His other dream is to play in the NHL. This might be a year when he can do both.

I remember it was discussed as an option for Sam Gagner after he was the sixth pick in the 2007 draft. Gagner was struggling and the belief was, maybe he could boost his confidence against players his age and then come back for a strong second half of the season. As it turns out, Gagner didn’t need the help as he finished his rookie year with 13 goals and 49 points. However it could be a fit or at least a possibility if (or when) Nugent-Hopkins makes the Oilers.

I mentioned Stamkos earlier and to me he’s a potential comparison with Nugent-Hopkins. That’s not only because Stamkos had 105 points in his last year in junior compared while Nugent-Hopkins recorded 106 points for Red Deer last season but didn’t it seem like Stamkos was rushed into the NHL? It did when he was benched and struggled to a 46-point output in Year 1. Yet, it didn’t seem like it when he had 51 goals and 95 points in his sophomore season or 45 goals and 91 points last year. We’ll never know how things would have turned out if Stamkos had gone back to junior but I can’t imagine it could be any better then the way it’s worked out.

On December 26, Canada will be in Edmonton to face Finland in the opener for the World Junior Hockey Championships. On the same day Edmonton is in Vancouver to take on the Canucks. The question that remains to be answered is: Where will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins be on Boxing Day?

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