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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gearing up for playoffs

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, who was rated No. 3 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report, has 24 goals, 94 points and a plus-25 rating through 64 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.

Hi everyone. We had a great 7-0 win over Prince George on (March 8) and I was fortunate to get a goal and three assists in the game. I think the team is where I hoped it would be early in the season (at 44-16-7) and that's huge.

Personally, I'm having a pretty good season and pretty happy with the way things are going. It does feel like we're about to take off and it's a good feeling in the locker room right now. Everybody's really excited and we're all ready to get going for the playoffs. Our goalie (Darcy Kuemper, 41-12-2) has been big for us. He's a great goalie and has taken huge strides over the past couple of years. He's had an unbelievable season and he's someone we can rely on.

As I mentioned last month, I was determined to shoot a little more and I'm really clicking with my teammates really well. We've developed some good chemistry and it really came together in the month of February (when Nugent-Hopkins had 6 goals, 20 points in 12 games).

With the draft three months away, there's been quite a few interview requests but it's all fun. I'm just trying to embrace it. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I'm just trying to embrace it as much as I can.

It was cool to get my second hat trick of the season (against Calgary on March 4). It's a good feeling when you get a hat trick because everyone gets excited and the fans are into it. I'm just shooting the puck more and getting some really good passes from my linemates -- it's been working well.

I was told that I was among the top five prospects (according to NHL Network analyst Craig Button) and just to be mentioned among the top players is a huge honor for me. It's great being mentioned No. 1 especially. It's all very surreal for me.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog this month. Talk to you again in April.

(Editor's note: Here is Craig Button's synopsis of Nugent-Hopkins. "No. 1 centers are really hard to find. No. 1 centers that make everyone around them better, are even more difficult to find. Hopkins has unbelievable vision, he's got unbelievable creativity and when you combine it with great quickness in his feet, and hands, and the ability to see what's unfolding, he's hard to check. He's elusive … a lot like Brad Richards, maybe even a Joe Sakic although not as good a shooter as Sakic. But if you're looking for similarities to that type of player, I think it's fair to compare him to a Brad Richards or a Joe Sakic-type. I know those are lofty expectations, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if a premier player.")

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