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Top prospects have vivid recollections of past drafts

Thursday, 06.25.2009 / 4:06 PM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Larry Wigge - NHL.com Columnist

"When Toronto announced it had acquired that pick from the Islanders, that was the first time I think I finally saw him (Luke Schenn) take a deep breath. I think he knew Toronto wanted him ... and it turned out his dream came true a couple moments later when the Maple Leafs announced his name."
-- Brayden Schenn

MONTREAL -- When John Tavares' name is called at Bell Centre on Friday night, you'll see him give a thumbs-up. But it won't be because he's elated at finally being picked by an NHL team. There's more to it.

Tavares, the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, said Thursday at a pre-draft media bash that draft day is a day of hope for the players as well as the team. But don't forget those watching at home. He won't.

"I've always tried not to spoil this day, knowing how important it was going to be to me. So I've tried not to watch the draft before," Tavares said. "But in 2007, when Sam Gagner was picked (No. 6 by the Edmonton Oilers) I had to watch. And when he gave a thumbs-up, I knew it was for me and everyone who had something to do with that day for him.

"All the hours when we'd beat one another up on the rink his dad built in their backyard. All the nights when Mr. or Mrs. Gagner had to turn out the lights to get us to quit. So, when you see me give a thumbs-up when my name is announced, you'll understand just how important the day will be to me and all my family and friends."

Blood, sweat and tears go along with every story you'll read about, whether it's from Moscow, Minneapolis, Helsinki, Ornskoldsvik -- or Oakville, Ontario, where Taveras is from.

"It doesn't matter if you're selected No. 1, 2, 10 or 100 as far as excitement is concerned," said Victor Hedman, the Swedish defenseman who could be picked ahead of Taveras as No. 1 in the draft. "My most vivid memory of watching a previous draft was last year.

"It was midnight back home in Ornskoldsvik and I was watching the draft on NHL.com. I remember wanting to say something to my girlfriend about how next year they could be announcing my name. But she was lying next to me, asleep.

"She won't be asleep this year."

Hedman said he's played this day over in his head many times in the last couple months.

"One day I'm first. The next I'm second. Or worse," he smiled. "But that isn't real. Tomorrow, it will be. That's when it counts."

Countryman Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson also remember last year, but for a different reason.

"Last year was my first year watching the draft, too,"  Paajarvi-Svensson said. "I wanted to see how it worked. I also wanted to root for my friends Erik Karlsson (who went No. 15 to Ottawa) and Mattias Tedenby (who went to New Jersey at No. 24). You see the players in the stands waiting and watching just like us at home. I had a soda and some chips. I wasn't wearing a suit like I'll be this time.

"Honestly, I couldn't believe all the intrigue surrounding the draft ... all the trades, leading up to the picks. It was exciting. I just hope I don't have to wait too long before my name is announced."

Brayden Schenn was at last year's draft in Ottawa, as was Simon Despres, two more top prospects who spoke with the media on Thursday. Schenn recalls the same intrigue Paajarvi-Svensson talked about. Brayden's brother Luke wound up as the No. 5 pick by Toronto -- but not before the Maple Leafs traded up a couple of spots with the New York Islanders.

 
"I've never seen my brother so nervous," Brayden said. "His hands were sweaty. He said a little something about each of the teams before they picked in the top four. But it wasn't like he was in control like we are on the ice.

"When Toronto announced it had acquired that pick from the Islanders, that was the first time I think I finally saw him take a deep breath. I think he knew Toronto wanted him ... and it turned out his dream came true a couple moments later when the Maple Leafs announced his name."

Despres drove to Ottawa with a few buddies who were in the draft.

"I thought it would be exciting," the big defenseman said. "I remember seeing Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin get picked and how excited I felt. Of course, I felt even more excited for my friends, my teammates last year. This year? I'm on, how you say, pins and needles, wondering who is going to pick me."

Scott Glennie remembers being in Brandon at a summer hockey camp with teammates, watching last year's draft to see Brayden and Luke Schenn enjoy their day in Ottawa.

"You should have heard the roar in that room when the camera panned in on Luke and Brayden was sitting there chatting with him just before the Maple Leafs picked Luke," Glennie recalled. "Other drafts I watched alone in my room. This one was special. I know my teammates back in Brandon are just as excited for Brayden and me as they were for Luke last year."
"Honestly, I couldn't believe all the intrigue surrounding the draft ... all the trades, leading up to the picks. It was exciting. I just hope I don't have to wait too long before my name is announced." -- Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
For Matt Duchene, Jared Cowen, Evander Kane, Jordan Schroeder, John Moore and Jacob Josefson, it was pretty much the same line of thinking -- watching Crosby, Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson or a teammate or friend get to come down on the floor of an NHL rink and start a new page in their life.

"I've played it over in my mind hundreds of times since this season started," Jacobsen said. "I've been first overall -- in my dreams. But it doesn't matter whether I'm picked 10th, 20th or 100th, it will be a dream come true for me."