Taylor Hall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, is still in his entry-level contract like Nugent-Hopkins but reportedly wasn’t eligible to join the Barons because he was on injured reserve.
Hall wasn’t assigned to Oklahoma City before the lockout. But now there’s speculation once Hall completes his rehabilitation following shoulder surgery he might be eligible to play for the Barons.
“There is a possibility but it hasn’t been discussed with the (Edmonton) organization, yet,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “It could be a possibility. Who knows what’s going to happen? It’s a different situation. We’re just moving forward business as usual. He still has to be cleared.”
Hall, a left winger, has scored 49 goals in 126 games the past two years with Edmonton.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, was among 34 players that participated in the Barons’ first practice Sunday morning at the Cox Convention Center.
During the NHL lockout, players with entry-level contracts like Nugent-Hopkins, one of the NHL’s top rookies last season, can play in the American Hockey League.
“It’s good to come down and keep playing and keep building relationships with some guys I played with quite a bit last year (in Edmonton),” said Nugent-Hopkins, who arrived in Oklahoma City Friday night.
“I haven’t seen too much, just been able to walk downtown. Everyone seems really nice. It’s cool having everything pretty close together. This is a great rink. I was almost a little surprised how nice the rink was and how big it was. I’m excited to get the season going.”
Hockey fans in Oklahoma City have a unique situation this season. Due to the NHL lockout a few of the league’s top young players will play in the 30-team American Hockey League.
The Barons, more than any other AHL team, will reap the rewards of having three of the Edmonton Oilers’ top young prospects playing in the Cox Convention Center until the lockout is resolved.
The Oklahoman next week will examine the impact of the NHL lockout on the Barons, a Triple-A franchise entering their third season.
“When we got here a lot of people didn’t know what the Barons were, yet,” said Barons general manager Bill Scott. “They were used to the old team (Blazers) from the Central Hockey League. That name obviously had been branded around here for a number of years.”
Scott said it’s exciting the Barons have developed their own identity after a playoff run reached the Western Conference finals last year.
“People now know who the Barons are and that they had great success on the ice last year,” Scott said. “Our office is doing a good job of branding our team and getting our players out in the community.”
One advantage this season is the Barons won’t go head-to-head as often with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The NBA lockout a year ago restructured the Thunder’s schedule. In February and March nine of the Barons’ 11 home games were nights the Thunder and Barons played on opposite sides of Reno Avenue. This year there will only be eight head-to-head home games the entire season.
“I don’t see anything like that ever happening again,” Scott said. “I truly believe the hockey market in Oklahoma City is going to grow more and more these next three to five years. It’s going to be very exciting. I see everything going in the right direction.”