The rumblings of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leaving the AHL Oklahoma City Barons to join a roster where he’d be the elder statesman have been occurring for some time. This week, confirmation was made by several reliable sources, and eventually by RNH’s agent, that the “kid” would indeed lace up for Team Canada.
I’ve believed all along that the decision on should he or shouldn’t he go has always been about The Nuge himself. Remove the Oilers from the equation, remove the Barons, remove the thought of leaving your team, because this is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often for Canadian players, and it’s the last chance for Nugent-Hopkins to partake in the World Junior Hockey Championships.
The odd wrinkle to this story has nothing to do with his decision, but rather a shoulder checkup in Edmonton before making the announcement absolutely concrete.
“It’s just precautionary, they’re just having a look,” said Nugent-Hopkins’ agent Rick Valette. “He had an AC separation last winter and we just want to make sure that everything is exactly where we need it to be. With our young athletes it’s the right thing to do and it’s the right thing to do for the Oilers too.”
That’s fine, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie digs a bit deeper:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ shoulder isn’t “injured” per se but hasn’t felt quite right this season in AHL. So he’s back in EDM for evaluation.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 2, 2012
Now that’s a certainly odd statement given the fact that Nugent-Hopkins has played full time in Oklahoma City this season. Why risk another shoulder injury if it hasn’t “felt quite right”? Why rush it? Why risk it even if in a locked out NHL season? I really have no explanation for this one. It’s border line absurd assuming both agent comments and those filtered through the media are the same.
And then the team chimed in on the shoulder situation via Coach Nelson & the subsequent video posted here. The comments get a little bit more specific in that they mention both “rehab” and “treatment” of a shoulder injury:
Coach Nelson announces C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will remain in EDM for the week to continue strengthening his shoulder.
— OKC Barons Hockey (@okcbarons) December 4, 2012
RNH will play in the World Junior tourney IF he’s healthy enough to play. But the surprise of a twinge of a shoulder injury is not good.