Eric Vandiest, Edmonton Sun.
Edmonton Oilers fans have known for the past few years what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is capable of on the ice. Minor hockey fans in BC, for a lot longer.
Now all NHL fans will get to see his talents on display.
On Saturday, Nugent-Hopkins was named to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 25.
Nuge played at the BWC, and then the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL before being drafted by the Oilders.
“It’s definitely pretty exciting. When I got the news, I definitely was happy to hear about it, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It’ll be a little bit different. I got a chance to play with a lot of great players when I went to the World Championships. I know some of them from that. A lot of these guys have been to the All-Star game many times. This will be my first and it’ll be cool to meet some guys.”
This is the league’s first All-Star game in three years.
The lockout cancelled the game two seasons ago and last year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia, negated the need for an All-Star break.
Nugent-Hopkins is the only member of the Oilers to be represented at the game.
“It’s an outstanding honour, this year he’s elevated his game and is playing very consistent hockey,” said Oilers coach Todd Nelson. “We’re very happy for him and it’s a great honour for him to go there.
“Right now, he’s playing both ends of the ice very well. He’s playing in all situations and he’s very dependable.”
Nugent-Hopkins, 21, is second to Taylor Hall in Oilers scoring this season with 11 goals and 14 assists in 36 games. He’s developed into the team’s top centre, going up against the best the league has to offer on a nightly basis.
“It should be fun, you watch the All-Star every year, guys are going out there and moving the puck around, trying to run up the score as much as possible,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Anytime you get a chance to hang out and talk to guys like that, it’s really good. It’s good to see how guys approach situations a different way.”