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Preparing for the big night in Minnesota

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 named the top player for Team Orr at the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 19. Nugent-Hopkins, rated No. 1 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's final report, had 31 goals, 106 points and a plus-30 rating in 69 games for Red Deer this season en route to being named the Canadian Hockey League's 'Top Prospect'. He chipped in with 4 goals, 11 points and a plus-5 rating in nine playoff games. This is the final post of a monthly blog that Nugent-Hopkins offered to maintain this season, leading up to the NHL Entry Draft.

Well, it's the day of the Draft. It's pretty unbelievable.

I'm probably going to throw my suit on, and get some breakfast this morning. I don't know what's planned yet but I don't think I'll be paying attention too much since the mind is going to be strictly focused on the Draft on Friday night. I'm excited, but anxious to get going.

I know there's a lot of talk about being the No. 1 pick and it's all kind of surreal. Just being mentioned among such great players this year and being ranked No. 1 right now is pretty incredible. I'd be very excited to join the Edmonton Oilers, if they do select me first. They have a young team with lots of skill and I would hope to be a part of their rebuilding stage and hopefully one day, win the Cup.

I played against Jordan Eberle a few times in the WHL when he played with Regina, so I know the skill level he brings and he's a great guy to give the puck to … he'll find you no matter where you are and will also score goals like it's his job. I watched Taylor Hall play quite a bit of junior and won a Memorial Cup twice. I watch him during the year play on TV too. They're a fun team to watch and I definitely feel they're going to be a great team in the future.

All in all, it's been a lot of fun this week hanging out with the prospects. We did many cool things and just being here, and getting to know them, is cool. I was pretty nervous all week, so doing this kind of stuff it kind of takes your mind off of it a little bit. We went to the Mall of America on Wednesday and went to a great theme park and aquarium. The shark tank was really cool.

On Thursday, I participated in the USA Hockey clinic that teaches the young kids how to enjoy the game by working on the fundamentals with each other. I think getting to kids when their young is the most important thing in teaching them about hockey because it's such a fun game to play. If kids get the opportunity to play, they'll learn it's a lot of fun and that's most rewarding.

All six stations that the kids had to go through were pretty cool. There was one station where (Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager) Brian Burke was at and that was pretty cool too. His station taught the kids agility skating and how to use their edges. I also liked the 3-on-3 station and the one where each player had to put his or her stick over a ring and stickhandle. Me and (Kitchener Rangers prospect) Gabriel (Landeskog) had a pretty good battle out there at that one. It taught the kids to keep their eyes up when they play with the puck.

Really, anytime you get to skate with little kids, it's fun. We were all that age (6- to 8-years-old) once and we all looked up to guys who played professionally or were in juniors, so it's great to give back and have some fun with it.

After the Draft, my main goal is going to be making it with an NHL team but if I don't make the NHL team, I won't be disappointed. It'll be a good year to go back to Red Deer and hopefully win the Memorial Cup -- that's the goal at least. Personally, it'll be a good rebuilding stage as well.

I hope you enjoyed my blog this year for It was a lot of fun.
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