MINNEAPOLIS -- On the eve of the Entry Draft, this year's top prospects were all smiles when confronted with questions surrounding the trading frenzy by the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday afternoon.
Right about the time 11 of NHL Central Scouting's brightest young stars were meeting with the media at the Walker Art Center's McGuire Theater, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was putting the finishing touches on a reported nine-year, $51 million deal to lock up goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Prior to that, Holmgren dealt center Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Jakub Voracek and a pair of 2011 draft picks in the first (No. 8) and third round (No. 68). Not long afterward, he traded captain Michael Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for prospect Brayden Schenn and 22-year-old forward Wayne Simmonds.
Despite being half a continent away from Philadelphia, the top prospects were interested observers -- not only because they are all hockey fans, but also because the trades could have a direct impact on them during Friday's first round.
"It's crazy … I just met with Columbus (Wednesday) night and now that pick is gone," said Niagara IceDogs center Ryan Strome, rated No. 8 on Central Scouting's North American list. "I've kind of taken the approach that as much as you want to know where you're going, there's really no point. You're never going to figure it out. You're never going to know where you're going until (Friday) night. It's a guessing game and I'm not going to guess because it's not worth my time."
It seemed many of the prospects actually felt something was going to go down prior to the opening round.
"I think it's going to be a draft with a lot of trades involved so anything can happen," Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy, rated No. 9, said. "Last year, you saw Cam Fowler, who was rated top 3, drop to No. 12 (to Anaheim) but that worked out for him. I'm trying not to set my expectations too high; anything can happen."
Kitchener left wing Gabriel Landeskog, ranked No. 2 among North American skaters, was stunned by the Flyers' dealing.
"It's something that's a part of it, I guess," he said. "Mike Richards and Jeff Carter … I was stunned. I wasn't expecting any of that, but it's very interesting. It'll make Friday and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) a lot more interesting, especially with this draft since you don't know who is going where. I'll be shaking in the stands for sure now."
Niagara defenseman Dougie Hamilton, rated No. 4 among North American skaters, always tries to picture wearing the jersey of the 30 NHL clubs.
"(Trades) are what make the draft cool; maybe I had a chance of going to Columbus but that's gone now and Philadelphia has a chance," he said. "You kind of picture a different jersey maybe, imagining different things, so it's cool. I like to picture things and kind of dream about different scenarios. I got to visit the draft floor (at Xcel Energy Center) on Thursday and stand on the stage. I'm not sure what color my jersey will be, but the thought puts a smile on my face and it's exciting."
The top North American goalie, John Gibson of the U.S. National Team Development Program, said he and the other prospects were discussing the trades prior to joining the media Thursday afternoon.
"We were actually talking about all the trades before we came out but obviously you can't look at it too much because it's out of your control," Gibson said. "But, right now, you have to hope that whichever team has been watching you, has that faith in you. You really can't do much more, so you hopefully hear your name picked on Friday.
"You want to go in the first round; that would be a great honor."
The top-rated defenseman from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Nathan Beaulieu, of the Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs, seemed pretty excited that the Flyers jumped into the first round.
"That (Carter) trade was in the mix the whole time," he said. "You always heard about that Philly trade and now they're in the first round, which is pretty cool. I met with Philly and there's a great group of guys there also so I don't know what's going to happen. They really wanted that first-round pick, so they might have someone in mind … we'll see."
For Beaulieu and the rest of the top prospects, the whole experience leading up to the Entry Draft has been memorable.
"It's a whirlwind and butterflies are starting to kick in," Beaulieu said. "You're getting a little nervous. I couldn't wait for this day to come … I waited for it my whole life. Now, I want it to slow down a little bit and soak it all in. It's been so much fun to share this with my teammates."
"I'm on the plane coming over and I'm nervous as can be," Strome told NHL.com. "I come off the plane and see the NHL logos and all that's going on and it's the most exciting time. I've never been so thrilled to do all these interviews. I'm really just trying to soak it all in and really don't know what I'm feeling half the time. I'm just trying to go along with the ride."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale