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Earning top honors in Western Hockey League

by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a center for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. Nugent-Hopkins, selected first overall in the WHL's 2008 bantam draft, was named the league's top rookie in 2009-10 after posting 24 goals and 65 points in 67 games. He was recently named the Western Hockey League's Player of the Week and was named the top player for Team Orr at the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 19. Nugent-Hopkins, who is rated No. 3 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, has 19 goals, 80 points and a plus-21 rating through 53 games for Red Deer this season. Nugent-Hopkins, who participated in the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp fueled by G Series in August, has offered to maintain a monthly blog for that will chronicle his season leading up to the NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.

Well, we lost a tough one (Tuesday) night against Medicine Hat. We knew it would a battle going into the game and we came out really hard and dominated the first period and a half and then it just seemed like we let our foot off the gas in the third.

It was really a great honor to be named WHL Player of the Week (after scoring 5 goals, 12 points in three games). My linemates and me are really playing well and we put up a lot of points and we got some good wins. My linemates, John Persson (26 goals, 50 points) and Andrej Kudrna (24 goals, 66 points), have been with me most of the year and we've been playing pretty well lately. Everything seems to be going right for us right now.

It was really cool getting the second hat trick of my career (against Moose Jaw on Feb. 4) and I was excited about it. I'm shooting the puck a little bit more and that's really helping out a lot. I have some more confidence in my shot now.

In our victory over Saskatoon (on Feb. 1), it was another tough battle against defender Duncan Siemens (rated No. 14 by NHL Central Scouting). We've always have some battles, so it's always good to play against a guy like that … it's good competition.

I think, as a team, we've come a long way since the start of the season (Red Deer has won 13 of its last 15 games). We're such a tight-knit group now and it was just like a family in the dressing room. We have some experience under our belt and a lot of talent so everything is working for us right now. I think we still have a lot of offer. I really don't think we're peaking right now. We're going to reach our peak right when we hit playoffs, so we're all looking forward to that.

I also wanted to say how great an experience the Top Prospects Game (on Jan. 19) was. It was a lot of fun getting to meet all those people and awesome playing with and against the top players in the CHL was a really a big deal for me. It's a once in a lifetime thing that I'll never forget. I think probably playing in the Air Canada Centre was my best memory. Anytime you get to play in a building like that, it's pretty exciting and we got to use the Maple Leafs' dressing room. That was awesome, seeing what it was like. We got a taste of that NHL feeling a little bit, so that was really cool.
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