With a tip of the hat to Vanna White, Wes Vannieuwhuizen (17 letters, eight vowels) fills out a name bar as well as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But the curious fans three and four deep at the first day of the Edmonton Oilers development camp Monday at Millennium Place were there to see Nugent-Hopkins, who was wearing No. 72. The daily sessions, which start at 9:30 a.m. through Saturday, are for the Oilers' draft picks, walk-ons like Vancouver Giants junior defenceman Vannieuwhuizen, and farmhand Colten Teubert. Nugent-Hopkins will likely be wearing No. 93 for his birth year when the Oilers' main training camp opens in the fall. He's not getting the No. 9 he wore with the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League because Glenn Anderson's number is retired. But, whatever he wears, it's more how he looks in an Oilers jersey that counts. All eyes were on the 18-year-old Nugent-Hopkins on Monday, and not just the fans'. Coach Tom Renney will be the main marker on the No. 1 draft pick's report card. Nugent-Hopkins is going against young players about the same age at this week's development camp, but his real audition starts in the main training camp. If Renney thinks the rookie can be an NHL centre on one of the top two lines after the exhibition games, and thinks he can handle the combative level against a six-foot-three, 240-pound defenceman like Douglas Murray in San Jose, Nugent-Hopkins will stay for at least the first nine games of the regular season. (If he plays 10 or more games, he eats up a year of eligibility towards unrestricted free agency.) The last forward taken No. 1 overall who didn't play in the NHL right away was Mats Sundin in 1989. Sundin stayed in Sweden. Mike Modano didn't play right away either, returning to the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders for another season, and he turned out just fine as TSN's Ryan Rishaug so astutely pointed out.
Curious fans check out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at Oilers development camp
Edmonton Journal | Jul 5