Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had season-ending shoulder surgery in April, sounded upbeat Tuesday after an informal skate with some of his teammates.
Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the 2011 NHL Draft, had the procedure done April 23 to fix a torn labrum; the surgery ended his 2012-13 season five games early. He said the shoulder felt good, although he stopped short of penciling himself into the Oilers lineup for the season opener Oct. 1 against the Winnipeg Jets.
Center - EDM
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 20 | PTS: 24
SOG: 78 | +/-: 3
"I think I'm going to be on the ice with the guys right away. I'll probably wear a yellow [no contact] jersey to start. It's feeling good and I'm just excited to get back here and get going," Nugent-Hopkins said following the skate. "It feels good right now, but I know it has to heal and I have to get my strength back. There are going to be a lot of discussions with the doctor and the medical staff over the next few weeks. I've just got to make sure it's 100 percent before I go out there."
Nugent-Hopkins admitted prior to the surgery the shoulder injury had been nagging him for a couple of years. He tied Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche for the rookie scoring lead in 2011-12 with 52 points despite missing 20 games due to an injury to the shoulder. Nugent-Hopkins struggled for most of last season, finishing with four goals and 20 points in 40 games before he was shut down.
The Burnaby, British Columbia, native said he added some muscle thanks to an intense summer training schedule; he's listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. The 20-year-old said he feels his shot has improved.
"My shot feels great. It feels probably a little bit better than last season even. I'm definitely happy with that. It was something I wanted to improve, even if I didn't have the surgery," said Nugent-Hopkins, who did not place a date on his eventual return. "I think everybody is going to be a little bit cautious. It's important to make sure that it's going to be good for the rest of my career and make sure that it's 100 percent when I start back up."