The Windsor Spitfires are in a fierce competition to repeat as Ontario Hockey League and Memorial Cup champions. But there's another competition going on inside the team's dressing room that might not be as fierce, but it's definitely there.
Left wing Taylor Hall and defenseman Cam Fowler are two of the favorites to be taken with the top pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. Along with Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin, these three are expected to be the first players to hear their names called when the annual NHL selection process takes place June 25-26 in Los Angeles.
"There're probably three people that have stepped above the crowd," one Eastern Conference scout told NHL.com.
Hall, a 6-foot, 170-pound forward, is second in the OHL with 70 points, and tied for third with 29 goals. He's the top-rated North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings.
Fowler, a 6-2, 195-pound defenseman, is fifth among league defensemen in scoring with 42 points. His 39 assists are tied for first among league defenseman and tied for sixth overall. Fowler is No. 3 on Central Scouting's midterm rankings, and the top-rated defenseman.
Seguin, at No. 2 on Central Scouting's list, is the only player between them.
While it's not new to have multiple players fighting for the top spot, it's not often two of those players skate for the same team. In fact, it's happened only twice in the history of the NHL draft, which goes back to 1963. That year, Garry Monahan (Canadiens) and Pete Mahovlich (Red Wings) went 1-2 from the St. Michael's Juveniles. It also happened in 1969, when the Montreal Canadiens selected Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif from the Montreal Junior Canadiens with the first two picks. But since the inception of the Entry Draft in 1979, teammates have gone in the top five only eight times, most recently in 2001, when Russian club Avangard Omsk had Alexander Svitov go No. 3 to the Lightning and Stanislav Chistov go fifth the Blue Jackets.
The closest in that time to having teammates go 1-2 was in 1999, when the Vancouver Canucks selected Daniel and Henrik Sedin from Modo in Sweden with the second and third picks.
Hall and Fowler have a chance to make their own history.
"I think as individuals it just shows how much hard work they've put into their careers up to this point," Windsor coach Bob Boughner told NHL.com. "Both of them are obviously unbelievable hockey players and great team kids. I think to have them both on the same team and possibly have them go 1-2, it's fantastic."
The internal drive that has put Hall and Fowler above the majority of the players in their age group also has sparked some internal competition for the top spot.
"There's an inner competition and it's a healthy competition," Boughner said. "They would both cheer each other on and root for each other ... but there's definitely some competition and there should be."
"I think anytime you have the potential to go one and two in the draft, it's a pretty special thing," Fowler told NHL.com. "Taylor is a great player. Having him on my team, we're able to push each other in practice and also in the weight room to get better."
Hall and Fowler, who drew the majority of the attention at the recent Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, try to say it's all about the team, not them.
"We're Windsor Spitfires, we're trying to help our team win every night," Hall told NHL.com. "At the end of the year, if we have a Memorial Cup and our team does great, I think that will be just as good as going No. 1 or No. 2 or whatever."
Still both players admit there is a bit of an ego factor into having "first overall pick" attached to your name for the rest of your life. While it's no guarantee of success, it is something nice to have.
"It would be a dream come true," Fowler said. "Ever since you realize you might get drafted into the NHL and there might be a future for you, if you're a competitor, you want that No. 1 spot. Me, Taylor and Seguin are those type of competitors. What the scouts are saying, it's pretty narrow between all of us, I think any of us could do it."
"It's not really an ego thing," Hall said. "We're all competitive guys and we want to see ourselves do the best we can. If I go No. 1 that's great, that's a great accomplishment, but it's not a goal of mine. My goal is to play in the NHL someday."
Regardless of who is drafted where, the jockeying of positions between now and draft day won't affect what's grown into a nice friendship between Hall and Fowler, who is in his first season with the Spitfires.
"I think it would be great for us to go 1-2, but to be honest with you, Taylor has wanted this for so long, I've wanted it for so long, (but) when it comes down to it, we want the best for each other, whether it's being drafted to a team he can play on right way, or maybe it's a great situation for me being drafted by a team. When it comes down to it, I'll be there to support him at the draft and I know he'll support me."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org