Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, was among 34 players who participated in the Barons' first practice Sunday morning at the Cox Convention Center.
During the NHL lockout, players with entry-level contracts like Nugent-Hopkins, one of the NHL's top rookies last season, can play in the American Hockey League.
“It's good to come down and keep playing and keep building relationships with some guys I played with quite a bit last year (in Edmonton),” said Nugent-Hopkins, who arrived in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
“I haven't seen too much, just been able to walk downtown. Everyone seems really nice. It's cool having everything pretty close together. This is a great rink. I was almost a little surprised how nice the rink was and how big it was. I'm excited to get the season going.”
ANOTHER NO. 1 OVERALL PICK?
Taylor Hall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, remains in his entry-level contract like Nugent-Hopkins. Hall reportedly wouldn't join the Barons because he was on injured reserve and wasn't assigned to Oklahoma City before the lockout.
Now there's speculation once Hall completes his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery he might be eligible to play for the Barons.
“There is a possibility, but it hasn't been discussed with the (Edmonton) organization, yet,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “It could be a possibility. Who knows what's going to happen? It's a different situation. We're just moving forward business as usual. He still has to be cleared.”
Hall, a left winger, has 49 goals in 126 games the past two years with Edmonton.
EBERLE EMBRACES OPPORTUNITY
Jordan Eberle, a first-round pick in 2009, the 22nd overall selection, has played the past two years with Edmonton but looks forward to playing in Oklahoma City.
“I'm excited,” Eberle said. “Obviously with the lockout in effect, this is the next best option. This is going to be the best league in North America. With all the young talent coming down from the NHL, it's going to be that much better.
“This is a great opportunity. You can do all the skating you want in the summer, but nothing beats live competition like we do battling in practice.”
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Unlike previous seasons, the Barons don't have to wait for Edmonton to make cuts. With 16 players returning from Oklahoma City's division champion from last season, Nelson began installing his system the opening day of camp.
“In previous years, we'd just get guys up and down the ice and work on two-on-ones and stuff that didn't really pertain to system play,” Nelson said. “Since there's no NHL training camp and everybody is here, today we worked on defensive zone coverage and what we do offensively out of our D-zone.
“I like what I see from all the guys we have back from last year. When you add three more quality players from Edmonton, it puts us in a pretty good spot. We're going to be very competitive. I think we're going to be tough to beat.”
THIS WEEK ...
The Barons continue workouts from 9 to 11:45 a.m. Monday at the Cox Center. The practice is open to the public. ... A brief exhibition schedule begins 7 p.m. Friday against the Houston Aeros at the Cox Center. Fans can attend free of charge with a donation of baby items that will go to charity.