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Nugent-Hopkins could go No. 1 in NHL draft

Edmonton expected to take 18-year-old center Friday night

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The Edmonton Oilers have the No. 1 selection for the second straight year, in Friday's NHL Draft, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is expected to be their choice.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is widely considered the best available player in this weekend's NHL draft.

He said he'll be happy wherever he winds up, but all signs point to Edmonton. For the second straight year, the Oilers have the first pick. They've been struggling, sure, but they've also been accumulating young talent. So perhaps that's not such a bad place for an 18-year-old to go.

"I'd love to join them as a rebuilding team and help the ultimate goal, which is winning a Stanley Cup eventually," Nugent-Hopkins said.

Last summer, the identity of the first pick remained a subject of intrigue right up until Taylor Hall's name was called by the commissioner. Tyler Seguin went to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

One of the many questions posed to Nugent-Hopkins during a session with reporters Thursday was whether he'd rather be the first pick -- or go second and win the Cup.

"Oh, man. Like, to any team? I'd probably go second and win a Cup," Nugent-Hopkins said.

The first round of the draft is Friday night at Xcel Energy Center, home of the Wild.

The Oilers could use a young center to pair with last year's prize, left wing Taylor Hall. Nugent-Hopkins led the Western Hockey League with 75 assists last season for the Red Deer Rebels. The native of Burnaby, British Columbia, said he's confident he's ready to enter the NHL right away.

"Red Deer should have a good team next year, so if I did go first overall and I played another year of juniors I think it'd be good for me just getting bigger and stronger," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Obviously my goal is to crack the NHL and make an NHL team, whichever team it is, but if I do go back I wouldn't be disappointed."

The 6-foot, 164-pound player would be the first WHL player drafted first since 1996, when Ottawa picked defenseman Chris Phillips. Minnesota's selection of Mike Modano in 1988 was the previous first pick from the WHL.

The Colorado Avalanche have the second pick, and defenseman Adam Larsson of Sweden, considered the top European prospect, could be their selection.

Strong, mobile, puck-moving defensemen have become a premium asset in the NHL, and as many as a half-dozen blue-liners could hear their name called in the top 15 picks.

Dougie Hamilton, of the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League, is another one of those top defensemen.

Though this crop could be shorter on franchise-changing stars, it's considered one of the deeper drafts of the past decade, perhaps comparable to the windfall of young talent that arrived in 2003, like Jeff Carter, Zach Parise, and Ryan Kesler.

 

Wings' pick won't make instant impact

DETROIT -- Red Wings general manager Ken Holland says he's not expecting much any time soon from the team's first-round pick.

Detroit has the 24th pick overall Friday night.

Holland says the prospect probably won't be able to help the Red Wings for three to five years. He says the team will take the best available player whether he's a goaltender, defenseman or forward.

Defenseman Jakub Kindl, drafted 19th overall in 2005, got his first extended shot to play in Detroit last season. Defenseman Brendan Smith, taken 27th overall in 2007, might get his first chance to play for the Red Wings next season.

 

Jackets get Carter in trade with Flyers

COLUMBUS -- Philadelphia traded top goal-scorer Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets for forward Jake Voracek, and the club's first- and third-round picks.

Carter led the Flyers in goals each of the past two seasons.

His presence finally gives the Blue Jackets a top-line center to pair with their best player, Rick Nash.

Voracek, a first-round pick in the 2007 draft, had 14 goals and 32 assists a year ago.

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