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Nugent-Hopkins hears the cheers

EDMONTON, Alta. -- The locals came in droves to see their future star, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, strut his stuff for Team White on Saturday evening at Rexall Place at a pretty intense exhibition during Canada's National Junior Team development camp.

He got get pushed off the puck a few times, exhibited radar-like vision while floating down the wing, showed a little feistiness and, oh yes, scored the final two goals of the game to rally Team White to a thrilling 5-4 victory.

It's all in a day's work for the kid who has the biggest bulls-eye on his back at this camp.

The fans came to their feet when Nugent-Hopkins pulled his team into a 4-4 tie at 16:32 off a spinorama in the slot.

"I thought I had a little part of the net because I saw the goalie way on the right side, so I thought I might have some space and I did," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I didn't really realize I had that much space, but I got pretty lucky on that bounce I guess."

Nugent-Hopkins gave the fans a little fist-pump for good measure after his dazzling move.

"I think my emotions got the best of me there," he said with a smile.

Just 3:08 later, he struck again -- sidestepping a defender in the right circle and blistering a shot into the top corner of the cage with just 20 seconds on the clock for the winner.

"Their player came right at me, so I had to deke and I fanned a little, but got lucky," he said.

It was at that time the fans began chanting "Nugent-Hopkins."

"It was weird because didn't really expect that, but it was pretty cool," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I heard the cheers a little bit but was just kind of relaxing on the bench, really."

That's typical Nugent-Hopkins, cool and collected.

Said linemate Devante Smith-Pelly: "That was great for him. It gave me goose bumps when they were chanting his name."

Team Canada coach Don Hay, who must eventually pare down his roster to 22 players for the World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, thought Nugent-Hopkins was quiet to start the game but certainly finished with a bang.

"Nugent-Hopkins is a finisher, he's around the puck, around the net and he has an ability to come up with big plays at the critical times of the game," Hay said.

By his own admission, however, not until the second period did Nugent-Hopkins feel comfortable on the ice.

"The first 20 minutes, I didn't feel it was my best period at all," he said. "I feel like in the second, I started to pick up on offense down low … using my feet a little more. In the third, I had all my energy back."

Selected No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2011 Entry Draft, the Burnaby, B.C., native has a lot on his mind lately. He's added a noticeable 10 pounds to his frame and would like to put on a five more, but he's also determined to earn a spot in the Oilers lineup in addition to representing his country at the World Junior Championship.

In other words, he has a lot on his plate.

"He probably has a better than 50 percent chance of making the Oilers," Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said. "He has the hockey sense to play the NHL … it's just that Edmonton has to be there fully. You can't take a chance on him coming in, with the size of today's players in the NHL and with the way the game is played, to take a chance on potentially him getting hurt. It'll be up to him to come in and show (Edmonton coach) Tom Renney and his staff that he deserves to be here."

The local reporters here feel Nugent-Hopkins will make it through training camp and remain with the Oilers for their first nine games before returning to the Western Hockey League with the Red Deer Rebels to continue his growth and maturation.

"I'd take all the positive things out of returning to Red Deer," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I want to make the Oilers. So if I don't make it, it might be a little disappointing at the time, but I think I'll do fine. Red Deer should have a great team again and, hopefully, I'll have a chance to play in World Juniors as well."

Nugent-Hopkins feels making the adjustment to the Oilers wouldn't be all that bad.

"They are a young group of talented players," he said. "I think it'll be a little bit more of an easier adjustment for me because all the young guys would be able to relate to me and me them. Hopefully I can jump right in."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale