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CHL names Nugent-Hopkins as top draft prospect

by Bill Hoppe
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the top North American for the 2011 Entry Draft as determined by NHL Central Scouting. The Canadian Hockey League agreed with that decision Saturday, naming him as junior hockey's top draft prospect.

Nugent-Hopkins, who led the Western Hockey league with 75 assists and tied for third with 106 points, beat out Kitchener Rangers left wing Gabriel Landeskog and Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier.

Landeskog is No. 2 on Central Scouting's list, while Couturier is No. 6.

Nugent-Hopkins said he's not tired of the constant Entry Draft talk.

"It's an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "I'm just trying to enjoy. It's been great so far. It's been a lot of fun."

Nugent-Hopkins, who also scored 31 goals in 69 games, experienced a memorable season. He was one of only 12 CHL players with 100 or more points and earned Player of the Game honors for Team Orr at the 2011 CHL/NHL Prospects Game. He compiled 4 goals and 11 points in 9 playoff games before the Rebels lost in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

The 18-year-old will participate is the NHL Scouting Combine, which starts Monday in Toronto. He would love to be drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, who hold the No. 1 pick.

"It would be a big honor for me, definitely," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Going to a team like Edmonton would be awesome for me because I think I could join the rebuilding stage for them. I'll just be happy to be drafted."

Nugent accepted the award inside the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, site of the MasterCard Memorial Cup. The host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors will face the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs in the championship game on Sunday.

The Entry Draft isn't the only thing Nugent Hopkins is looking forward to. Next week he'll graduate from Hunting Hills High School in Red Deer, Alta.

It should be a whirlwind month.

"It's incredible what I've been going through," Nugent-Hopkins said. "To be going through this is my dream as a kid. It's really incredible for me. I'm just enjoying it as much as I can."

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