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World Cup

Nugent-Hopkins left off Team North America roster

Oilers center could still make team before June 1

by Tim Wharnsby / Correspondent

One of the most difficult decisions Edmonton Oilers and Team North America general manager Peter Chiarelli deliberated over for the initial 16-player roster was whether to include center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  

Chiarelli wound up leaving off the Oilers center. Nugent-Hopkins' production has dipped this season to eight goals and 30 points in 46 games, and the fifth-year forward has been injured; he missed the past 17 games because of surgery to repair his broken right index finger after he blocked a shot from Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitri Kulikov on Jan. 18. 

"That was a difficult one," Chiarelli said. "Ryan is an important part of our team in Edmonton. He's been hurt. We've got a management group. There's certain assessments we have of certain players." 

Of the players named to the 23-and-under team Wednesday, only Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Brandon Saad has scored more goals than Nugent-Hopkins (76-73) and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier has played more games (331-304).

Video: Team North America GM Peter Chiarelli

But no player already named to the roster has more career points than Nugent-Hopkins, who has 218. He also has international experience, having played for Canada at the 2012 World Hockey Championship and 2013 World Junior Championship. 

The remaining seven players on the 23-man roster must be named by June 1. 

"I spoke with Ryan a week or so ago," Chiarelli said. "We talked about this situation. I told him, 'You're an important part of the Oilers, and you're going to be an important part of this team when you start playing, so just go and play and things will sort themselves out.' 

"Ryan was really good about it. He knows what he has to do. I would expect him to be part of this team at the end of the day. But he's got to come back and play, and I expect that he will." 

The initial prognosis on his broken finger was that Nugent-Hopkins, 22, would miss 6-8 weeks. He began to practice with the Oilers this week. 

Joining Chiarelli on the management team are associate GM Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks), director of operations Ryan Jankowski (Hockey Canada), special assistant to the GM Adam Graves (New York Rangers), director of player personnel Pat Verbeek (Tampa Bay Lightning), director of player personnel Paul Fenton (Nashville Predators) and coach Todd McLellan (Oilers).

Video: WORLD CUP RAW | Todd McLellan

Team North America does have plenty of talent up the middle with Nugent-Hopkins' teammate, Connor McDavid, Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan and Couturier. 

"I think it's a lot easier to go to the wing from center than the other way around," Bowman said. "Like if we were short on centers, that might be more of a concern. I think that's something certainly you can learn in short order. 

"A lot of these guys have played different positions growing up. Typically the best offensive players tend to be centermen, but that's not always the case. Sometimes they played wing and got moved to center. 

"That's not a big concern from our perspective. I would much rather have a lot of centers than to be looking for guys who can play in the middle. It's an important position. Having multiple centers I think is a strength for the group." 

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