Canada camp vets hope experience leads to spot

Published August 05, 2011

| National Hockey League

EDMONTON, Alta. -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said he was a tad timid, Mark Pysyk believed he was too cautious and Ryan Murphy admitted the pace caught him by surprise.

Each player felt they were left off Canada's 2011 world junior championship team, which won the silver medal in Buffalo, for those reasons. They came close -- each was invited to Canada's final selection camp in Toronto in December -- but the disappointment of not making the team eventually would hit home.

All of them were invited to return to Canada's development camp this week, and each is hoping for a little retribution this year.

"It's definitely different this year," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I came into December camp last year and I was a little more timid than I should have been. Now I have more confidence and I feel good out here. I think having that experience is just really going to help me. You have to show confidence and assertiveness out there."

Nugent-Hopkins, Pysyk and Murphy weren't the only players among the last nine released from the 2011 team last December. Also failing to make the final cut and looking to redeem themselves this week are defenseman Ryan Murray and forwards Michael Bournival and Brendan Gallagher.

"I want to make a good impression on the coaches and everybody else out there," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Obviously, my goal right now is to make the Edmonton Oilers, but if I do go back to junior and get the chance to play for Canada at the world junior championship, that would be incredible, too."

After leading the Red Deer Rebels in scoring and placing fourth in the Western Hockey League with 106 points, including 31 goals, Nugent-Hopkins was chosen by the Oilers with the first pick of the 2011 Entry Draft. At camp, he's played mostly alongside St. Louis Blues prospect Jaden Schwartz and the Anaheim Ducks' Devante Smith-Pelly.

"I put on about 10 pounds so I'm pretty happy where I am and hopefully I have about three weeks before Red Deer's camp following this one," he said. "I think I can put on another five pounds, but I feel stronger and more powerful in my skating and I can get lower. I have a better stride and it's helped me quite a bit."

Nugent-Hopkins actually gave the hometown faithful a lot to look forward to during Thursday's controlled scrimmage, when he scored the first goal of the game on a picturesque backhand he roofed near the left post. His team lost the game, but the goal certainly stuck in everybody's memory bank.

"I don't know if Nugent-Hopkins will be available to us," Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "I hope he is, but it's going to be up to the Oilers at that point. He certainly has a lot of talent, but that's a big jump from junior to the NHL."

Pysyk, drafted 23rd by the Buffalo Sabres in 2010, captained the Edmonton Oil Kings last season and finished with 6 goals and 40 points in 63 games.

The 6-foot-1, 174-pound Pysyk has been paired mostly with 6-1, 182-pound Nathan Beaulieu of the Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs. Beaulieu was taken in the first round (No. 17) by the Montreal Canadiens in June.

"During the first game and half of another, I was a little bit cautious and just feeling out the waters," Pysyk told NHL.com of last December's camp. "This time, I can't do that. This camp is way too short to feel out the competition, so you just have to go in, and right from Day 1, make a statement."

Bournival, drafted in the third round (No. 71) by the Colorado Avalanche in 2010 and traded to the Montreal Canadiens in November, and Gallagher, chosen in the fifth round (No. 147) in 2010 by the Canadiens, have been skating on the same line alongside center Freddie Hamilton (San Jose).

Canada coach Don Hay knows Gallagher well -- he coaches him with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Gallagher led the Giants with 44 goals and 91 points last season.

Hay singled out two players that impressed him following Thursday's scrimmage -- goalie Mark Visentin and Gallagher.

"He stepped up and played well, especially in the third period," Hay said of Gallagher. "He plays hard and goes to the net. I don't want him running over goalies, but going to the net."

Bournival, captain of the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, had 28 goals and 64 points last season.

Murphy, taken 12th by the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2011 Entry Draft, has been working exclusively with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Stuart Percy.

"Last year I was a young player playing with 19-year-olds and it was a lot faster than I expected it to be," Murphy said. "I've taken a lot from that camp into this one. If you make a mistake out there, you have guys like Nugent-Hopkins bearing down on you and he'll bury it. So you can't make any mistakes."

Murray was considered a longshot to make the squad last year as the youngest player at the camp, but he still impressed enough to get that opportunity. This year, he looks like a grizzled veteran despite being just 17 years old. The captain of the WHL's Everett Silvertips, he has been paired with Boston Bruins 2011 draftee Dougie Hamilton at camp.

"I didn't think I came in last year with a lot of confidence … that first game I was nervous, wasn't myself and wasn't playing my game," Murray said. "This time, I'm just trying to be a lot more confident out there, do what I can."

That's a common trait in all six players who missed out last year, but are aiming for spots this time around.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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