During the course of Thursday night’s game, if you happen to see Roman Hamrlik matched up against Oilers rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, consider that the 37-year-old Czech was wrapping up his first year when the young center was born.
In fact, on April 13, 2009, the day after Nugent-Hopkins was born, Hamrlik recorded a goal and an assist in a Tampa Bay Lightning game against the Winnipeg Jets. (h/t Japers’ Rink).
When told about the factoid, Hamrlik, now 37 years old to Nugent-Hopkins’s 18, laughed.
“A little bit weird, but obviously these things happen in sports. Unfortunately it has to be me again,” said Hamrlik, who like Nugent-Hopkins was a first overall draft pick. Hamrlik was selected in 1992 by Tampa Bay and Nugent-Hopkins in 2011.
They even share the same birthday, April 12, with Hamrlik’s in 1974 and Nugent-Hopkins in 1993.
“I’m sure he’s got lots of speed – young legs – just give him outside, don’t give him the middle. Try to finish a check on him,” Hamrlik said of how to oppose the young playmaker.
While he was reminded of his age, Hamrlik believes it’s a good thing for young players to be ready to jump into the NHL.
“You don’t really see too many players 18 years old come into the league and be good players,” Hamrlik said. “I think it’s good for the league he’s 18 and he’s going to be good player.”
Of course these aren’t the only first overall draft picks who will be suited up for Thursday's game at Rexall Place. Alex Ovechkin (2004) and Taylor Hall (2010) will also be in their team’s respective lineups.