Last week Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the talk of Edmonton and the NHL world for being picked first in the 2011 NHL Draft. This weekend, amid free agency madness, he took care of some important paperwork signing his three-year entry level deal with Edmonton to get him best prepared to potentially enter the NHL next season.
The Oilers getting Hopkins signed now doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll play in the NHL next season, it just means he can if he can crack the lineup. Should he make the team, he’ll have a fellow youngster to learn from on how it goes when you make the jump from junior hockey into the greatest league in the world. Taylor Hall was able to go from playing in Windsor one year to playing for the Oilers the next after being taken #1 overall in 2010.
Should Hopkins make the jump to the NHL, the Oilers will have a very talented group of forwards but a group that’s very young. With Hall, Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner checking in at 22 years-old or younger there’s a lot to be hopeful of in Edmonton. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is eager to see what Hopkins can add to the mix right away as the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland found out.
General manager Steve Tambellini said again on Saturday that the Oilers will not rush Nugent-Hopkins to the NHL team’s roster this season. He just wanted to get the contract done sooner rather than later, and since there isn’t much wiggle room with the top pick, it wasn’t going to take much more than a couple of signatures.
“I can’t wait to see him with the rest of our guys at development camp,” said Tambellini. “We know what he is as a hockey player, what he’s going to be, but I don’t think people know yet what a quality person he is. I look forward to working with him for many many years.”
If the Oilers are fortunate, he can jump in right away and produce immediately the way Hall and Eberle did last season. Should Hopkins make the NHL right away, he’ll come in with a cap hit of $3.775 million thanks to his base salary and bonuses factored in. That salary won’t be an issue for the Oilers who are well below the salary cap.
With how many top picks the Oilers have been pulling in over the years while the team has been mired in mediocrity it brings hope that times will change in Edmonton in a big way soon. For now, they’ll have to deal with the growing pains but with talents like they have, the pains will at least be entertaining to see in action.