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Nugent-Hopkins heads to Edmonton with top NHL pick

By Dave Campbell

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 24 2011 8:31 p.m. MDT

NHL top three draft choices Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, center, Gabriel Landeskog, right, and Jonathan Huberdeau pose after being drafted in the first round of the National Hockey League entry draft, Friday June, 24, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn.

Andy King, Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was picked first in a center-heavy NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.

The Oilers, slotted first overall for the second straight year, selected the slick passer from the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 18-year-old center led the WHL last season with 75 assists.

Nugent-Hopkins is the first WHL player to be drafted first since 1996. Six of the first eight picks this year were centers. Then came a run of defensemen, with six going in the top 14. After that, came a couple of eyebrow-raising trades.

The Minnesota Wild delighted the home crowd, which roared as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced their deal with the San Jose Sharks. The Wild sent All-Star defenseman Brent Burns and their 2012 second-round pick to the Sharks.

They got back a pair of forwards Devin Setoguchi, a former 30-goal scorer, and Charlie Coyle, a first-round pick last year; plus this year's first-round pick, 28th overall.

Chicago dealt right wing Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for the 26th overall selection, giving the Blackhawks a pair of first-rounders.

The Oilers chose left wing Taylor Hall from the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL No. 1 in 2010, and Nugent-Hopkins could eventually find himself on a line with him.

To get there, Nugent-Hopkins has to bulk up. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 164 pounds, the native of British Columbia said this week he's added 10 pounds to that total since the end of his junior season and plans to pack on five more.

"Steak and potatoes, mostly," he said when asked about his diet. "Just trying to put some weight on."

Nugent-Hopkins said he's heard general manager Steve Tambellini is in "no rush" to bring him to Edmonton.

"If I do go back to junior, I won't be disappointed at all," Nugent-Hopkins said. "It'll be a great opportunity for us as Red Deer as a team to hopefully get to the Memorial Cup. Personally, it'll be a good development year for me, too. But my goal right now is to make the Oilers."

The first British Columbian to be taken first overall in the NHL draft, Nugent-Hopkins has already spoken with Hall.

"He was so great to talk to. Everything looks good right now," Nugent-Hopkins said. "He just said, 'Enjoy this whole experience. You're going to be nervous and stuff, but try to enjoy it as much as you can.'"

As for their chemistry?

"I guess we'll never know until we get on the ice together, but hopefully we do. I can see it working," Nugent-Hopkins said.

The remaining rounds, two through seven, take place on Saturday.

Left wing Gabriel Landeskog of Sweden went second overall to the Colorado Avalanche. He had 36 goals in 53 games last season for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Jonathan Huberdeau, a center from Quebec, was taken third by the Florida Panthers, who were also in the same slot for the second year in a row. Huberdeau was the MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs after getting three goals and three assists in four games for the Saint John's Sea Dogs.

Adam Larsson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman from Sweden, was selected fourth by the New Jersey Devils. He played two full seasons for Skelleftea and was the third blue-liner to make his debut in the Swedish Elite League at age 16.

Then the New York Islanders chose center Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. Strome was third in the league with 106 points in 65 games. Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, a native of Minnesota, introduced Strome. The Islanders, too, were picking fifth for the second straight year.

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