EDMONTON — After a quiet two periods, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins produced the fireworks the Edmonton crowd was craving.
The No. 1 selection in this year’s NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers scored two late goals to pull White to a 5-4 win over Red in an intra-squad game at the Canadian junior hockey team’s summer development camp Saturday.
The Red Deer Rebels centre scored the winner with 40 seconds remaining in the game after tying the contest at 16:32.
The game drew 6,391 to Rexall Place, many of whom paid $12 a ticket to get a glimpse of the player expected to be an major part of the Oilers’ future. They were chanting his name at the end of the game.
“I had a little bit of a slow start, but I think I started to pick it up in the second period,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “After the second period I just had to relax myself and calm down a bit and re-group.
“I’ve played here a bunch of times against the Oil Kings. It’s not my first time in the building, but it was definitely a good atmosphere.”
Devante Smith-Pelly of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors was a standout player for White. In addition to a goal and an assist, the Anaheim Ducks prospect threw several hard checks in the first period.
Smith-Pelly sparked White’s comeback with a power-play goal in the third period when his team was trailed 4-1.
“Smith-Pelly I thought was the best player on the ice,” head coach Don Hay stated. “Physically he really went after people. He was a force and you knew he was on the ice every shift he had. He took pucks hard to the net, was able to a score a goal and got an assist.”
Moose Jaw Warriors forward Quinton Howden and Christian Thomas of the Oshawa Generals also scored for White. Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs contributed a pair of assists.
Mark Stone, a sixth-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, had two goals and an assist for Red. Saginaw Spirit defenceman Jamie Oleksiak had a goal and an assist and Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs also scored for Red.
Edmonton Oiler forward Ryan Smyth served as celebrity coach for the Red team and between-jobs NHL coach Ken Hitchcock was behind the bench for White.
The six-day camp ends today with an intra-squad game in Fort McMurray, at the Casman Centre.
Mark Visentin of the Niagara IceDogs is the only goaltender of the four invited who has previous experience playing for the Canadian junior team. Visentin started in net for Red and stopped 17-of-18 shots. Louis Domingue of the Quebec Remparts made 19 saves on 23 shots in relief.
Tyler Bunz of the Medicine Hat Tigers was the first goalie in net for White and he was busier than Visentin, making 19 saves on 21 shots. Scott Wedgewood of the Plymouth Whalers then made 24 saves on 26 shots.
Trailing 4-1 five minutes into the third period, Smith-Pelly, Howden and then Nugent-Hopkins with a pair capped the comeback. Nugent-Hopkins beat Domingue between the pads for the winner and got a backhand by Domingue to tie the game.
While the players got their game legs under them, the first period was fairly wide open.
The second period produced more extracurricular shoving and trash-talking after whistles as the two sides began to build some animosity towards each other.
About 35 players will be invited to selection camp in December and from that group, 22 will be chosen to represent Canada at the world junior championship starting Dec. 26. Canada opens the tournament versus Finland at Rexall Place.