|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice, including the winner with only 20 seconds to play Saturday (Photo by Andy Devlin / Hockey Canada)
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." - Unknown Author
Roughly 8,000 hockey fans piled into Rexall Place on Saturday night for a little summer hockey action with Hockey Canada's World Junior program in town. With no disrespect to any of the other 46 excellent players that were on the ice, most eyes were focused on #8 for Team White: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Nugent-Hopkins is no stranger to Edmonton ice, having played here a number of times (including a first round playoff series last season) against the Oil Kings in WHL action, but Saturday was his first chance to strut his stuff following his 1st overall draft selection back in June. From my vantage point, Nugent-Hopkins was given a relatively different role in the game than he would normally see. He saw a regular shift in the first period, and a little bit less in the 2nd period, with a number of his shifts through 40 minutes on the penalty kill. He displayed a strong ability in the face off dot and didn't look out of place defending his own side of the puck, but those skill sets weren't exactly what made him the #1 pick in the Entry Draft.
In the final 3 minutes, the fans in Edmonton caught a glimpse of the future. Team White coaches George Burnett and Ken Hitchcock juggled the lines and put Ty Rattie on the right side with Nugent-Hopkins and Jaden Schwartz, switching the rambunxious Devante Smith-Pelley to play with Sean Couturier and Quinton Howden. The moves paid dividends, with Smith-Pelley and Howden scoring goals to pull Team White back to within 1 after they trailed by 3 midway through the final frame.
Cue the explosion by Nugent-Hopkins. With just over 3 minutes remaining in regulation, he drove the net hard and corralled the rebound of a shot by Ty Rattie. He proceeded to slide the puck home with a no-look, spin-o-rama backhand that eluded Louis Domingue to tie the game. A couple of minutes later, Nugent-Hopkins was put on the ice to take the offensive zone face off in the final minute of play. With 20 seconds to go, Nugent-Hopkins side-stepped a defender off the half wall and snapped a quick bullet through the legs of Domingue to win the game for Team White.
In the final moments of the game, chants of "Nuuuuuugggeee" and "Nu-Gent Hop-Kins" rang out from the crowd and the early legend of the young phenom grew even larger. He didn't cement a 1,500 point career with that game on Saturday, didn't win a Stanley Cup...heck, we still don't know if he'll play in the NHL this season. But, I'll tell you, it was something to watch. A year after being dazzled by Taylor Hall
, Jordan Eberle
and the rest of a very young but very talented squad, Nugent-Hopkins delivered the same feeling during his first performance in front of his new hometown fans.
I talked to Ryan Smyth
about it afterwards (he was on the Team Red bench as an honorary coach for the game) and he put it pretty succinctly: you can't teach what you saw him do. The skill, the instincts, the clutch timing...the whole package. Some guys have it, a large majority don't.
This kid has "it", and we knew that already. But it was pretty special on a Saturday night in August to watch it for the first of many times on Edmonton ice. PART 2: THE RADIO RIGHTS
The announcement was made this morning that the Edmonton Oilers and 630 CHED have reached an agreement to extend their radio rights deal, additionally purchasing the rights to Bob Stauffer's daily afternoon show.
Our broadcast structure will remain the same on game nights as we feature a "Face Off Show" starting 90 minutes prior to each puck drop and "Overtime Openline" for roughly 90 minutes following the conclusion of each game. Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer will be the team in the broadcast booth once again, with Rob Brown providing analysis and me in the host's chair. On CHED's weekly schedule, "Inside Sports" will remain in its 6pm-9pm timeslot and "Oilers Now" debuts on August 22nd in its 12pm-2pm timeslot.
We're extremely proud of the work that we do on a daily basis to provide a quality broadcast for the most passionate fans in the NHL, and this year will see our coverage taken to another level. The addition of Bob Stauffer, the ultimate Oilers insider, will make CHED the only stop on the dial for Oilers-related information and analysis all day, every day. Between "Oilers Now, "Inside Sports" and the Oilers Radio Network, you can expect an unprecedented access to guests, information and analysis related to your favorite team.
Speaking for the radio team, I'd like you all to know that it's an absolute honour for all of us to be signed on for more seasons of Oilers hockey. We take the privilege very seriously and look forward to providing you with a nearly endless supply of entertaining and compelling Edmonton Oilers coverage. Author: Dan Tencer