January 24, 2011
Standout playmaker Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has had a big week, but it will take more than that to nudge him to the top of NHL draft boards. Veteran Edmonton hockey writer Jim Matheson gathers that the Edmonton Oilers, neck-and-neck with the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders to finish dead last and win the NHL draft lottery, are also digging the Swedish defenceman, Adam Larsson.
"If I had to hazard a guess on their top four, here's how it goes: (1) Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson, (2) Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, (3) Swedish winger Gabriel Landeskog, (4) centre Sean Couturier. They also really like Niagara IceDogs defenceman Dougie Hamilton, too. The Oilers need a dominant blue-liner more than a centre, but they love Nugent-Hopkins' competitive fire. When he's under the gun to perform, as he was in the world under-18 championship last year — he scored the winning goal in the final — and the top prospects game with scouts galore in the seats, he comes through. Couturier is six-foot-four, but his skating bothers some scouts." (Edmonton Journal)
In a neat coincidence, just as Nugent-Hopkins is competing against two Swedes to go No. 1, he's helped raise the game of one of Larsson and Landeskog's compatriots.
The centre has been clicking with a pair of import wingers with the rising tide that is the Red Deer Rebels (eight consecutive wins), including second-year forward John Persson. There is a good story there revolving around how the Rebels stood by Persson while waiting for him to adjust to the Western Hockey League.
"The second-year import was far from dazzling in his Western Hockey League rookie season, scoring just seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 62 games, but showed enough to be given another chance this year.
"It’s safe to say the gamble has paid off for head coach and vice president of player development Jesse Wallin. On Sunday Persson scored his first career hat trick in leading the Rebels to a 6-4 win over the Kootenay Ice.
" ... He was bumped to the top line about two months ago and since then has formed a strong on-ice bond with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and fellow Euro sniper Andrej Kudrna. This chemistry was on display all night on Saturday. Nugent-Hopkins had four assists while Kudrna scored twice and added three helpers. In total the line accumulated 12 points in the outing." (Red Deer Advocate)
Guess that goes to show it is a border-less hockey world.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.