GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 15: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck past Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on December 15, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 4-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
This morning Derek wrote briefly about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' shoulder injury and rumours that he might be returning to Edmonton to have that shoulder looked at. As it turns out those rumours were true and Nugent-Hopkins is in fact flying home to Edmonton to have the shoulder he injured Monday night against the Blackhawks looked at by the team's medical staff as announced on Twitter this afternoon.
Nugent-Hopkins has been better in his rookie season than most would have expected or even hoped and is probably the front runner right now to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the leagues top rookie. He has been a huge part of the Oilers improved powerplay this season, a powerplay that is currently second in the NHL. More than half of Nugent-Hopkins' 35 points this season - 18 to be exact - have come with the man advantage and he trails the NHL leader Brian Campbell in that category by just a single point. For a player that won't turn 19 until after the Oilers season has concluded (assuming the team doesn't make a miracle run to the playoffs) that kind of production is more than a little impressive. Without him in the lineup the Oilers powerplay will likely struggle to score which isn't great news for a team that ranks 24th in goals scored at five-on-five.
That the Oilers have sent Nugent-Hopkins back to Edmonton might be seen by some as a negative in it may mean he ends up missing more than two or three games as might have been hoped. But being the glass-half-full guy that I am, I see it as a big positive because for a change the Oilers seem to be erring on the side of caution when it comes to an injury. This team has a history of returning players to the lineup too soon only to have the player re-injure himself and miss even more time. With Nugent-Hopkins I'm glad that the team has chosen to be cautious rather than risk further, and perhaps long term injury to their budding superstar.