Oilers sign 2011 number one pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to three-year entry level deal

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.

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games and were unable to secure a playoff spot Thursday.