2011 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins showed promise during Young Stars game on Sunday

Rookie camps and prospect tournaments provide young players with solid first opportunities to further their causes going into regular training camp, the preseason and maybe even the regular season. When the Edmonton Oilers made Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, many remarked that the undersized center might need at least one more season at the junior level before he’s ready for the big time.

While RNH is already taking steps to add some weight to his frame (one of the concerns scouts expressed about his NHL-readiness), the best way for him to prove that he’s ready for an immediate jump is to impress the Oilers as much as possible. That’s especially true regarding how he fares against direct competition.

Sunday’s Young Stars game against Vancouver Canucks prospects represented Nugent-Hopkins’ first chance to show his stuff. The Oilers crushed the Canucks 7-2, with the playmaker earning a second assist. Swedish prospect Anton Lander stole the show with two power-play goals, but various onlookers seemed to come away pretty impressed with Nugent-Hopkins.

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Going forward, Peter Tessier wrote that Nugent-Hopkins “looks as advertised” while Ryan Classic believes that the rookie showed “incredible passing poise.” Thomas Drance also marveled at his playmaking instincts and said he was “just fun to watch.”

Obviously, one game against mostly non-NHL competition isn’t a proper gauge for Nugent-Hopkins chances of making the team, but it never hurts to show some signs of promise. While Ian Walker’s piece begins with discussion about the fact that Nugent-Hopkins might not look the part, it seems like the Oilers like what they’ve seen so far.

If anything, Nugent-Hopkins is student of the game. His combination of vision, creativity, skating and playmaking ability put him arguably at the top of the class when it comes to the 150 or so other prospects gathered here.

It’s no wonder his potential future Oilers teammates have him penciled in on the second line to start the regular season. “From what I hear from the guys on the team he’s been skating with for the past few weeks, he’s definitely ready to make the jump from junior skill-wise,” said Oilers’ former first overall pick Taylor Hall, who just so happened to use last year’s Young Stars tournament as a springboard to future success. “I haven’t seen him yet, but I guess it’s just amazing with what he can do with the puck. As long as he can handle the expectations, pressure and media, which I have no doubts that he can, he’s going to be fine.”

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“I’ll tell you what I told Ryan, this is not a race,” said Tambellini. “We want training camp to be a learning experience and for him to just be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nothing more, nothing less. If he plays this year great. If he goes back to Red Deer, that’s also great.”

My instinct is usually to lean toward allowing players as much time to mature as possible, especially since dirt-cheap entry-level years can really benefit teams in the salary cap era. Why waste one of those precious bargain years if that player isn’t ready yet? (That being said, it’s pretty tough to argue with the results that Jeff Skinner produced right out of the gate in his Calder Trophy 2010-11 season.)

It should be interesting to watch Nugent-Hopkins’ ups and downs as he tries to make the Oilers roster out of training camp. The adept passer will get his next chance to “Wow” the Oilers’ brass on Tuesday, when Edmonton’s prospects takes on Winnipeg Jets youngsters. We’ll keep you updated about his progress, especially during key moments in training camp and the preseason.

Video: Incredibly awkward ceremonial puck drop before KHL game in China

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KHL hockey is still relatively new in China and it showed prior to Kunlun Red Star’s game against Lada Togliatti earlier this week.

Prior to the game, the team organized a ceremonial puck drop, which ended up being a little awkward to say the least.

You can watch the entire thing by clicking the video at the top of the page.

That’s pretty funny!

The awkward look the two captains gave each other was priceless too.

After suffering ‘a bruise on his backside’ on Friday, Dmitry Kulikov misses practice

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Even though it’s just the preseason, the Sabres had a night to forget on Friday.

Not only did they get clobbered 8-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they also lost Dmitry Kulikov to injury.

Kulikov left the game in considerable pain after being hit by Colin Greening in the third period. As the Sabres defenseman went into the boards, the door to the Leafs bench opened.

Here’s how it looked:

After the game, head coach Dan Bylsma downplayed the injury.

“He’s got a bruise on his backside, but at this point in time it’s not more than a bruise,” Bylsma said, per the Buffalo News.

According to beat reporter John Vogl, Kulikov wasn’t on the ice for his team’s practice this morning.

It’s still unclear how long he’ll be out exactly. It’s good to know that the Sabres don’t appear to be overly worried about this injury though.

It’s an important year for 25-year-old. He’s entering his first year with the Sabres, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban to make preseason debuts on Saturday

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game Six of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center  on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The deeper we get into the preseason, the more we’ll see star players being integrated into their team’s lineups.

On Saturday, three big names will make their 2016-17 debuts with their respective teams.

After a stint at the World Cup with Team USA, Patrick Kane will be in Chicago’s lineup for their game against the St. Louis Blues.

Kane and the Americans had a disappointing tournament, as he failed to score a goal and the team failed to win a round-robin game.

Erik Karlsson, who was at the World Cup with Team Sweden, will also play his first exhibition of the season, as the Senators take on the Canadiens this afternoon.

Sens head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t planning on playing his captain this early, but Karlsson changed his mind.

“I was thinking of maybe giving him a break and then taking him on the trip (to Winnipeg and Saskatoon) next week,” Boucher told the Ottawa Citizen. “He had two hard practices. I was impressed by his leadership. He wanted to be playing in front of our fans.”

Finally, P.K. Subban will make his Preds debut against the Lightning.

Subban was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for Shea Weber this off-season, but he was held out of games because of general soreness.

It sounds like Subban will play on a pairing with Mattias Ekholm.

“It’s great having a partner like that,” Subban said, per the Tennessean. “I’ve had some great partners in the past, but he’s definitely right up there with the best that I’ve played with. I’m not sure exactly what the partners are going to be come the regular season. Those things can switch, but I’m happy to be playing with him.”

Blackhawks’ Rozsival doesn’t know ‘what my role is’ this season

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival has overcome a lot in his NHL career, but even he isn’t sure where he fits in Chicago’s plans this season.

After suffering a serious ankle injury in the 2015 playoffs, Rozsival returned to the ice last season where he skated in 51 games with the ‘Hawks.

The 38-year-old dressed for the first four games of his team’s opening round playoff series against St. Louis before being a healthy scratch in the final three games.

During the off-season, he signed a one-year, $600,000 contract to remain with the club.

“After last season I had no indications or expectations that I would be back or not,” Rozsival said, per the Chicago Tribune. “So I’m happy to be back.

“Right now, I still don’t know what my role is. It might be determined by the way I play. The last four years I’ve played 20 games, I’ve played 30 games and I’ve played 50 games. I’m ready for anything and for any kind of role. Obviously, I would love to be playing. I’m always trying to fight for my ice time.”

Getting into the lineup won’t be easy. The ‘Hawks already have standouts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson and they added free agent Brian Campbell during the summer. Add Trevor van Riemsdyk (he’s on a one-way deal) and European free agent Michal Kempny and it looks like finding minutes for Rozsival won’t be easy.

They also have younger options like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg looking to make an impact at the NHL level.

“I think Michal played great hockey last year,” GM Stan Bowman said. “If anything, we probably played him too much. Michal is at the top of his game when we can give him some time to re-cooperate between games. He still has a lot of hockey left in him.”