There are probably plenty of “holy **** I’m actually in the NHL” moments for rookies, but the first game against the team you grew up watching has to be one of the biggest.
The best rookie of them all, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, will experience that tonight in Vancouver when his Oilers take on the Canucks.
“It’s going to be pretty cool. I grew up watching the Canucks, although I never got to too many games,” Nugent-Hopkins told the Vancouver Sun. “I got some decent seats sometimes, though. It’ll be special playing there for the first league game.”
The Sun also spoke to the Nuge’s mom – “I’d imagine playing in Vancouver will be nerve-racking for Ryan” – but the best quote came courtesy one of his minor-hockey coaches, Jeff Birrell.
“I’ve coached for 26, 27 years and the one thing you can never give a child is passion,” said Birrell. “If their single passion is to be at the rink all the time, shooting pucks, learning the game and they have the skill, they can make it. Ryan had that and he just lives for it. He’s a humble, I-love-to-play-the-game kind of kid.”
Nugent-Hopkins leads all NHL rookies with 34 points, eight more than New Jersey’s 21-year-old Adam Henrique.
The Oilers might not get the warmest welcome from the Canucks, who are coming off a 3-1 loss at home to the Flames on Friday.
Mike Weaver has retired. The 37-year-old defenseman made the announcement today via the NHLPA.
“What an enjoyable experience to do something you love for 11 years in the NHL and 15 years in professional hockey,” said Weaver in a release. “I could never have imagined this. Hockey is more than just a game to me. Thanks to the Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and the Montreal Canadiens.
“I would also like to thank the fans who brought the energy and excitement every night to the arenas. When the game starts, your teammates are who you trust, rely on and respect the most. Thank you to all my teammates for all the memories that will last a lifetime.”
Undrafted out of Michigan State, Weaver ended up playing 633 games in the NHL, plus 28 more in the playoffs.
Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.
Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.
Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.
“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”
Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings