It looks like 2011’s top draft pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, is going to be sticking around in Edmonton.
The Oilers made their final cuts today and hitting the waiver wire are four players led by former scorer and Columbus top pick Gilbert Brule. Two seasons ago, Brule was the third leading scorer on the Oilers with 37 points including 17 goals. Last year, Brule fell on hard times playing in just 41 games and scoring just seven goals.
With Brule heading out, Nugent-Hopkins gets a shot to stick around and prove that he belongs in the NHL. The 18 year-old will have lots of young guys to play alongside in Edmonton with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle potentially starting up as his linemates. Helping make Nugent-Hopkins’ arrival an easier call to make was an ankle injury to Sam Gagner. Gagner would normally set up as the second line center, but he’s week-to-week dealing with his ailment. Youngster Anton Lander will also start the year in Edmonton.
The Oilers are also starting the season littered with injuries along their blue line as Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, and Taylor Chorney are out with different ailments. That opens the door for guys like former Rangers prospect Corey Potter and former Michigan State standout Jeff Petry to start the season in Edmonton. They’ll be counted on to hold down the fort while Smid and Whitney recover. Expect the Oilers to resemble a turnstile at times defensively.
All eyes will be on Nugent-Hopkins, however. Being a top pick comes with huge hopes and expectations. His teammate Hall was able to show what he was made of last year before getting injured in a fight and knocked out for the season. Provided that Nugent-Hopkins can learn from Hall and blend in seamlessly in Edmonton, the Oilers and their fans will have plenty of excitement to behold this year whether the team wins or not.