The Oilers report: “RNH says he’ll likely participate in #Oilers camp with a non-contact jersey for starters says his repaired shoulder is feeling good.”

And the Journal’s Jim Matheson: “RNH buzzing and ripping wrist shots in skate with Oil guys. Shoulder surgery looks like it worked.”

The recovery of Nugent-Hopkins 20 is one the crucial story lines for the Oilers this year.

In 2011-12 Ales Hemsky struggled coming back from shoulder surgery. Hemsky wasn’t his old self until February or March. In 2012-12 Taylor Hall came back strongly for the Oilers after shoulder surgery but had the benefit of returning to pro hockey when the NHLPA was locked out. Hall’s first post-surgery games came in the relative anonymity of Oklahoma City.

Hall missed the first eight games of the Oklahoma season. Right off the top he was one of the best forwards on the Barons but it wasn’t until the end of November that he was his old high-flying hard-charging self again. He had nine points in his first eight games in OKC then 25 points in his next 18.

By the end of December 2012 Hall had taken his game to a new level and that superior play continued when he got to the NHL. He put up 50 points in 45 games to lead the Oilers and finish in the Top Ten in league scoring.

Will RNH also miss games to start the year? Will it take him to late November or early December or later to truly get into high gear again? None of that would be surprising.

If RNH does struggle to get going the Oilers will be challenged to win. For an NHL team to contend it needs at least two centres who can do well against tough competition. RNH proved he can do that last season and the Oilers have picked up checking centre Boyd Gordon to help out against the Jonathan Toews the Mikko Koivus the Henrik Sedins and Logan Coutures of the league.