NHL prospects and future stars were on hand at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre Saturday, where they had their photos taken for their first Upper Deck hockey cards.
By Michael Musalem
The next generation of NHL stars was on full display in Toronto this past Saturday, as 33 of the league’s most promising recent draftees gathered at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for some serious face time.
The event put on by Upper Deck, the league’s official trading card partner, and the NHLPA is held each year with the purpose of photographing the prospects in their official NHL team gear for the first time, giving them all the opportunity to live out any pro’s lifelong dream of having their very own hockey card.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it – getting my own card,” said Oilers prospect and Hamilton, Ont., native Darnell Nurse. “Any hockey player would be lying if they said they weren’t.”
For some, such as Maple Leafs 2010 third-rounder Greg McKegg, the day also brought back memories of their very own childhood collections, as well as their most sought-after and treasured pieces.
“It was always cool going through those packs and trying to find your favorite players,” said McKegg.
When the lone Maple Leafs representative was asked who his favorites were, McKegg didn’t hesitate. “Growing up it was definitely Steve Yzerman. There were a few multiples I’m sure.”
Nurse also wasn’t shy in revealing which card was his favorite and which player he idolized as a child. “Holographic Mats Sundin,” he said. “When I was younger he was my favorite player. I wore number 13 every year.”
No matter how avid of collectors they were as kids, all who were on hand Saturday were ecstatic to be there, stressing how nice it was to get away from the competiveness on the ice, or in the gym.
“It’s a bit of a different experience,” said 2014 second overall pick Sam Reinhart. “Being off the ice as opposed to always being on the ice – I think a lot of guys are enjoying it.”
Also present was Red Wings 2013 first-rounder Anthony Mantha, who was all smiles in front of reporters. “It’s a pleasure this weekend. We’re all here, no stress. It’s pretty awesome.”
The light-hearted fun will be short-lived for Mantha and company, who continue to prepare for NHL training camps, which are set to open Sept. 18.