Nugent-Hopkins back in line

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has given the ‘thumbs up’ in regards to his participation in the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge.

Red Deer Rebel Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has given the ‘thumbs up’ in regards to his participation in the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge.

On Wednesday, the Red Deer Rebels rookie centre was named to Team Pacific for the 2010 event, set for Dec. 29-Jan. 4 in Timmins, Ont..

The 16-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native indicated as recently as a month ago that he was considering turning down any invitation he might receive concerning his participation in the U17 Challenge, but on Wednesday he confirmed that he’ll be in Timmins.

“I’ve decided that I’ll play. My family and I and our family advisors thought it would be better for my future if I went,” said Nugent-Hopkins, prior to a Rebels practice session at the Collicutt Centre. “It should be a lot of fun and a great experience.”

Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin was also in on the discussions.

“We definitely talked about it. He thought a lot about it and talked to his parents as well, and the overall conclusion was that this is probably the best decision for him,” said Wallin.

“There were some issues there as far as camps that he attended last year and wasn’t really happy about. And a number of B.C. players were involved, not just him. But at the end of the day, it’s a good opportunity for Ryan, a step along the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence.”

Another source stated that Nugent-Hopkins attended one or more BC Hockey camps last year geared towards picking the provincial players for Team Pacific (Alberta-British Columbia) for the 2009 World U17 Challenge, then was told he wasn’t eligible to play in the event because he was only 15 years of age.

In addition, according to the source, Nugent-Hopkins and “two or three” of his teammates with the Vancouver Northwest Giants were told by BC Hockey officials that they were required to attend a Team Pacific selection camp during the same weekend of the Giants/Calgary Buffaloes Pacific Region midget AAA playoff series in April.

Nugent-Hopkins did not attend the camp and instead suited up for the Giants, who were defeated 2-1 in the best-of-three series.

The Rebels are back in action on Saturday, when the Spokane Chiefs visit the Centrium for a 7:30 p.m. contest.

l Two players on the Rebels protected list will be with Team West (Manitoba-Saskatchewan) at the World U17 Challenge. Forward Chad Robinson of the Manitoba midget AAA Yellowhead Chiefs and Melville Millionaires (SJHL) goaltender Zach Rakocky were named to the team earlier this week.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

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