EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers centers Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Tuesday practiced for the first time since returning from playing in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Edmonton's top two centers were members of Team North America and took five days off following their final World Cup game last Wednesday.
"It feels really good, we had a good time in Toronto and it was good to get to know those guys, but there is nothing like getting back with these guys and getting back on the ice again," McDavid said. "Being part of a best-on-best tournament like that was a great experience for myself and all the young guys. We had a great time and it was unfortunate the way it turned out, but it's almost hard to be upset with the way the tournament went. If you told me at the beginning of the tournament we would beat Finland and Sweden, that would almost guarantee that you would go through and you would take that."
Team North America defeated Finland 4-1, lost to Russia 4-3 and defeated Sweden 4-3 in overtime in the preliminary round. It finished third in Group B behind Sweden and Russia and did not qualify for the semifinals.
Rejoining the Oilers, McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins each feel they are a step ahead of the rest of the players at training camp after playing in emotional, high-intensity games at the World Cup.
"I think it's a little bit of an advantage," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Today on the ice I felt pretty good. It felt like I was still in Toronto still practicing there. We got a few days off, but I'm still feeling pretty good, so hopefully when the games come around, our minds are already in game shape."
McDavid, 19, was captain of Team North America, the 23 or younger team coached by Oilers coach Todd McLellan. The No. 1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft could be named Oilers captain before the beginning of the regular season, which would make him the youngest captain in NHL history.
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"I definitely felt very humbled and proud to wear the 'C' on a team like that [North America]," McDavid said. "I was very comfortable with it."
McLellan, who returned to Edmonton the day after North America was officially eliminated from the World Cup to conduct practice at training camp, said the responsibility of being named captain of Team North America did not change McDavid.
"I didn't think he got out of character at all, he continued to carry himself the same way that he always has," McLellan said. "There's a respect level for him in the hockey world already, but he was a tremendous individual there. He led in different ways and he had a terrific supporting group. There can't be enough said about those other guys that were there as well."
The Oilers did not name a captain to replace defenseman Andrew Ference prior to last season, electing to go with rotating alternate captains instead. Ference missed the majority of last season with a hip injury.
"You don't just go out and name some [captain], that someone becomes that person," Oilers forward Matt Hendricks said. "I see Connor becoming that player even at his young age. He's a tremendous teammate who leads by example every day."
In his first practice with the Oilers this season, McDavid skated on the top line centering left wing Milan Lucic and right wing Jordan Eberle.
Lucic signed with Edmonton as an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is expected to start the regular season alongside McDavid.
"A big reason why I chose to come to Edmonton was to play with him," Lucic said. "Hopefully, everything works out as planned. He's a very mature young man. It's surprising he's only 19 years old, the way he carries himself. That's what going to make him a great leader, and at some point, the next captain of the Oilers."
Lucic made his Oilers debut Monday in a split-squad preseason game against the Calgary Flames. McDavid watched the game from the press box and was impressed with the veteran.
"I was so happy to watch him play, just the way he plays, it's going to work well, I think," McDavid said. "He opens up so much room, he wins battles, he keeps a ton of pucks alive, he's almost a perfect winger for myself."
McDavid is not certain how many of Edmonton's six remaining preseason games he will play.
"That's not up to me, that's not my choice, we'll leave that up to the coaching staff," he said. "I love playing, so whether it's all of them, it's one of them, two of them, I don't really care. I'm just happy to play in any game."
McLellan said he wants to keep McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins in game shape heading into the regular season, which begins Oct. 12 against the Flames at Rogers Place.
"They're up and running and we're going to keep them running," McLellan said. "They'll get sick of practice here pretty quick if we don't play them in any games. We'll manage their energy levels throughout camp, we'll make sure they're getting what the need so they're ready to play when the season starts."
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