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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is NEXT

The Oilers center is the next big thing in the NHL

Updated: December 29, 2011, 3:09 PM ET
By Doug McIntyre | ESPN The Magazine

AROUND THIS TIME LAST YEAR, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was still feeling the sting of being cut by Team Canada before the annual world junior hockey (under-20) championship. Too young, his critics said, and too frail. At that point, the 17-year-old had scored only eight goals in 31 games for his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels, and his NHL draft stock was dropping.

As it turned out, the setback awakened his game. "I went back to my junior team disappointed -- and a little ...

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