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Hedman, Tavares, Duchene off to Tampa

Tuesday, 06.02.2009 / 11:51 PM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"Hedman, Duchene and Tavares are going to fly Tampa and hang out with us for the day. We'll introduce them to the media and we're excited about it. You can give us any one of those three kids and our team will improve drastically."
-- Lightning owner Oren Koules

PITTSBURGH - The media tour for top prospects Victor Hedman, John Tavares and Matt Duchene didn't end at the conclusion of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday.

The projected top three selections for the June 26 draft are headed to Tampa Bay where Lightning owner Oren Koules has invited the three to dinner and a tour of the town. The trio will arrive in Tampa Bay Wednesday morning before heading home Thursday afternoon.

"We're going to have all three guys to dinner (Wednesday) and we did it this way as to not separate them," Koules said. "Hedman, Duchene and Tavares are going to fly Tampa and hang out with us for the day. We'll introduce them to the media and we're excited about it. You can give us any one of those three kids and our team will improve drastically."

Duchene scored 31 goals and 79 points in 57 games with the Brampton Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League in 2008-09 before netting 14 goals and 26 points in 21 playoff games -- the Windsor Spitfires defeated Brampton in five games to capture the OHL's Memorial Cup. The 18-year-old Duchene is looking forward to the meeting with Koules and his partners.

"They've already met with us and John (Tavares) and I already went out to dinner with them at the (Scouting) Combine, but there are still some people we haven't met," Duchene said. "I'm sure with the three of us being there, I don't think there will be too much of an interview process, but it'll be an opportunity for them to just get to know us."

"They're all great players and we're looking forward to showing them around Tampa," Koules said. "Really, I could literally give you a full dissertation as to why any one of those kids is the right one. We've already met them all and (Wednesday) will be an opportunity for us to show them around the arena. We're really proud of what we're doing down there and we want them to see it."

Tampa Bay has the second pick in the 2009 Entry Draft -- right behind the New York Islanders. In the 2008 draft, the Lightning selected Steven Stamkos with the first selection. After a slow start, Stamkos finished fifth among rookies with 46 points (23 goals) in 79 games. He also registered nine power-play goals.

"I used to play against Steven growing up until I was about 14, so it was pretty cool to see a guy like that in the NHL," Duchene said. "I've paid a lot of attention to him because I knew I'd be in a similar position as him this year. It's good to see how he adapted."