Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joins Canada's world hockey roster
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is set to extend a memorable season by joining Canada for the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
The Edmonton Oilers rookie accepted an invitation Tuesday after receiving medical clearance from the Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins missed time this season with a shoulder injury, but was eager for the opportunity to represent his country.
"It's always something I wanted to do," he said. "Getting asked is a big honour for me."
The 18-year-old will be joined by Oilers teammate Devan Dubnyk, who has agreed to return to the event for a third straight year. Dubnyk didn't see much action in the last two tournaments but should be used more this time around in a goaltending tandem with Cam Ward.
In all, Hockey Canada has received commitments from 10 forwards, four defencemen and two goaltenders.
The NHL's top goal-scorer, Steven Stamkos, will not be among the players who travel to Europe at the end of the month. Even though an MRI on his injured left shoulder revealed no structural damage, the Tampa Bay Lightning star elected to pass on his invitation Tuesday.
"I'm going to rest the shoulder," Stamkos told the Tampa Tribune.
There should still be plenty of scoring to go around, with four 30-goal scorers (Corey Perry, John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane) from this season and a strong supporting cast that includes Jeff Skinner and Nugent-Hopkins, who put up 52 points in 62 games.
The No. 1 pick from last year's draft was never given the chance to represent Canada at the world junior tournament. He was cut at age 17 and wasn't made available by the Oilers this year.
He's heading to the world championship at a crucial time for Canada, which has dipped to fourth in the world rankings after consecutive quarter-final exits. The groupings for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia will be set once the tournament wraps up next month.
"At every level when you put on the Canadian jersey it's important, but this year at the men's worlds it's very important," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said Tuesday. "We want to win a gold."
General manager Kevin Lowe will continue to fill out his roster before the team travels to Zurich at the end of the month for a pair of exhibition games. It opens the world championship in Helsinki on May 4 against Slovakia.
Canada last captured gold at the event in 2007.