MONTREAL – With their destinies now counting down by the hour, the top prospects for this year’s NHL draft are all trying to think about anything but.
Attending the league’s annual prospect lunch, many of the teens were filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety in anticipation of a Friday evening that can’t come soon enough.
“I can’t believe it’s only a day away,” said John Moore, the smooth-skating defenseman from Chicago of the United States League. “It seems like it’s been on the horizon all year.”
For most players, Thursday night will consist of dinner with family, friends and agents, then an early curtain call – at least that’s the plan.
“I’m going to work out and maybe swim in the pool,” said Swedish defender Victor Hedman. “Then, I will sleep…hopefully, I will sleep.”
London Knights phenom John Tavares, who is Hedman’s competition for the No. 1 slot in the draft, has faced more pressure than any other recent prospect dating back to Sidney Crosby. With the day he and the hockey world have been waiting for, seemingly forever, about to occur, the scoring sensation made light of the waiting game.
“I’ll probably have a nice meal – nice and heavy so I can knock myself out,” Tavares joked. “It’s obviously been a hectic week.”
Moore, who is rooming with Vancouver Giants star Evander Kane, plans to lay low in his hotel room.
“We’re living on the Internet,” he said.
Several big names weren’t even finished with official business yet.
“Ironically enough, I still have a fitness test with the New Jersey Devils,” Moore said.
But even when the youngsters get through Thursday’s jitters, there’s still most of Friday to pass. After all, the draft festivities do not get started in earnest until 7 p.m. EST.
Along with Hedman, a whole troop of elite Swedes are on hand this weekend, including dazzling playmaker Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and two-way force Jacob Josefson (both of whom also had a couple more team interviews Thursday). Regarding Friday plans, Paajarvi-Svensson thought he might play squash with his brother, while Josefson and Hedman were considering exploring the city of Montreal.
The hype is reaching a crescendo in Montreal and naturally the media presence grows with every draft-related event. By the time the names are actually called, every possible combination of player, team and order has been theorized and dissected. The players themselves are not immune to the speculation.
“Of course you follow rankings on the Internet,” Josefson said. “Most of them are pretty good.”
But sometimes too much information leads to a muddying of the situation, not clarity.
“I’ve talked to Hedman and Josefson about it,” Paajarvi-Svensson said. “We’ve seen so many draft lists, we’re not sure ourselves.”
Hedman had an even more analytical take on the unpredictability of the situation: “With trades, you could have one team picking three times in the first round.”
In the end, though, all the players know is they are preparing for a special day; a day they’ve likely waited their entire lives to experience and sacrificed whatever was asked of them. And it’s fun.
“You have to enjoy the moment,” said Brandon Wheat Kings star Scott Glennie. “This weekend will be one of the best weekends of my young life.”
And it’s only getting started.
GRILLING THE PROSPECTS
While in Toronto for the NHL draft combine, THN.com’s Rory Boylen caught up with four of this years top prospects in the upcoming NHL entry draft. He asked Brayden Schenn, John Tavares, Evander Kane and Jordan Schroeder, which current NHLer their game most resembled and what they need to do to improve and take the next step. Producer: Ted Cooper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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