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Top overall pick starting season with Oilers

Monday, 10.03.2011 / 9:51 PM / News

Associated Press

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Top overall pick starting season with Oilers

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) - Top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will start the season with the Edmonton Oilers and is set to make his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Sunday.

The 18-year-old Nugent-Hopkins might yet end up back in junior hockey because Edmonton has roster decisions remaining.

"To be honest, all I know is I'm going to Jasper (Alberta)," Nugent-Hopkins said. "That's all I really know. They haven't really told me anything, so I'm just going to take it one day at a time.

"I feel confident in the way I've been playing in preseason. I'm happy with the way it's gone. I've had some awesome linemates to work with and stuff. I'm pretty comfortable with the way things have gone."

The Oilers have a nine-game window in which to look at him without using up a year of his entry-level contract, but he'll be in the lineup Sunday.

Based on the lines coach Tom Renney used Monday, that debut could come on the first line between Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky as a reward for leading the Oilers in preseason scoring with one goal and five assists.

"We all understand the parameters there that he can operate in before we have to make a real concrete decision on the season," Renney said. "Again, we'll do it a game at a time, but he's had a very good camp.

"I'm going to play him. This is about two points now and the guys who can help us do that will play. I fully expect Ryan will be an important contributor to our needs every night."

Whether it's one or two games, a nine-game look or the balance of the season, Nugent-Hopkins isn't getting ahead of things as his prepares for Sunday.

"Jumping to the NHL from junior is going to be a lot bigger than anything I've ever experienced," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I definitely have to elevate my game as much as I can.

"I think the most important thing for me is using my hockey sense to my advantage. I'm not the biggest guy or anything, so I have to use what I have to my advantage."

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