Weekend Update: Nuuuuuge

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may be the first Calder Trophy winning Oiler ever. He's "nifty player" in the words of Ryan Smyth.

For the second month in a row, the Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been named rookie of the month. Nugent-Hopkins is the first player to have the honour of being rookie of the month two months in a row since Evgeni Malkin in 2006 and should Nugent-Hopkins continue to have a strong rookie season, he could be the first Oiler ever to win the Calder Trophy. Yes, the Oilers need top defencemen and yes the Oilers could use another excellent centre, but I'm telling you, this kid is special. The Red Deer arena had a special feeling while Nugent-Hopkins played there. The whispers about Nugent-Hopkins, his plays, his passes, it was impossible not to get as caught up as the home crowd. Now, with the team struggling to find consistency, Nugent-Hopkins' play and production is one of the reasons to watch the team night in and night out.

This week, the Oilers looked as though they wouldn't win a game all week. But then in a game that went back and forth, the Oilers found a win.

On Saturday night, Ladislav Smid got his first goal in nearly two years, but that wasn't enough. The Oilers would lose 5-2 to the Colorado Avalanche. Monday night was another loss, but this time it was only a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. Wednesday night, the Oilers lost to the Minnesota Wild in yet another Wild shootout, this one was a 3-2 loss. Friday night, the first of a back to back set for the Oilers and somehow they pulled it together to beat the Coumbus Blue Jackets with a convincing 6-3 final score.

Of course, there were some delightful surprises Friday night besides a victory. Ryan Jones scored the first hat-trick of his career, and is well on his way to matching or beating the 18 goals he scored last year; something I'm confident he can do.

Now that it's December, there are far more clean shaven men walking around, and skating in the NHL. Some of the Oilers had much better moustaches than I would have thought but it was for a great cause and there are those out there that really like facial hair. So, until next time:

Ryan Whitney returned from a knee injury to play last Friday afternoon in Minnesota. Whitney's return corresponded with the Oilers' first win in St. Paul in a very long time. Unfortunately, on Wednesday night Ryan Whitney could have injured his knee, as well as Cal Clutterbuck's when the two collided.

Thursday, everyone waited to see if Whitney would have a meeting with Sheriff Shanny. Whitney did not have to have a hearing with Shanahan, and there was no penalty on the play. Personally I think that Whitney stayed stationary and expected Clutterbuck to continue in a wide arc. I understand that many Wild fans, including Bryan Reynolds at Hockey Wilderness were upset with the play, but sometimes things just happen like the Oilers who broke ankles on ruts in the ice. Of course if this had happened to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, I would have been just as upset.

Taylor Hall joins the ranks of Oilers' with injured shoulders, and is expected to be out 2-4 weeks. At least Hall still has his sense of humour, as Hall tweeted "Just went on the ice... Felt good. Hope to be back soon so everyone can stop telling me I'm messing up their hockey pool." Although Hall is skating, that is not participating in drills, and it is certainly not taking contact.

The Team Canada camp invitations have been sent out and Oilers' prospect Tyler Bunz was anything but a surprise on the list. Bunz has easily been the most consistent of the invitees, but will likely have to earn or take the top goaltending spot from here. TSN's Bob McKenzie takes a look at some players that may be released or heal in time to play in this year's tournament. In terms of NHL teams releasing players, it doesn't look that promising.

Ex-Oiler Mike Grier announced his retirement this week. Jim Matheson, a man who has worked closely with the Edmonton Oilers has seen a number of players come and go. Of Grier Matheson had some particularily kind words to say; "I would put Mike Grier, who packed away his skates for good Thursday, on my list of the 10 classiest Edmonton Oilers players of all-time, and we're talking a lot of players over the last 30 years." Grier could easily be one of the next ex-players to turn coach and with coaches on the chopping block this week, it could even happen this season.

The Edmonton Oilers have put together a video update on prospect and Oil King Kristians Pelss.

The Oil Kings have had a phenomenal week this week. Saturday night was a 5-2 win over the Lethbridge Hurricaines. On Tuesday night, the Oil Kings had a 4-1 win over the Spokane Chiefs, stretching their winning streak to four games. Thursday night, the Oil Kings made the successful drive to five with a 6-1 win over the Calgary Hitmen. Even at the WHL level, a win in the battle of Alberta is a beautiful thing.

Oil Kings' captain Mark Pysyk has been invited to the Team Canada camp, and after being bumped last year, has high hopes of making this team. Pysyk is one of 11 defencemen invited, so the level of competition will be high but Pysyk brings talent, size, strength, leadership and determination.

***

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