CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. -- As a minor hockey player growing up in the Detroit area, U.S. National Team Development Program defenseman Jacob Trouba remembers going with his hockey association to watch Detroit Red Wings practices -- and once getting Brendan Shanahan's autograph.
"Sometimes they'd come out in the lobby and talk to you, that was about it," Trouba told NHL.com. "I got Shanahan's autograph -- that was it."
The Wings never came to his place. But on Wednesday, Trouba and four other top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft spent part of their day at the Ice Castle to skate with kids ages 5-10 at a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey camp.
Trouba was joined by Sarnia teammates Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk, Everett's Ryan Murray and Quebec's Mikhail Grigorenko for the event. It was hard to tell who had more fun -- the 18-year-old future NHL stars or the youngsters dreaming about getting there some day.
"For me, it was a great time to skate with the kids," Yakupov said. "One was crazy, he slashed me every time. But I had fun, so it was OK."
Yakupov added any time a player asked him what his name was, he'd say, "Bobby."
The prospects were on the ice for about two hours, going through drills with boys and girls from the mite (age 5-8) and squirt (9-10) groups.
"We didn't say who was going to be here, just that we'd have some of the prospects from the draft," Mark Shuttleworth, director of amateur hockey for the Penguins, told NHL.com. "I don't think anybody through they'd get the top prospects. We let that be a surprise and they were thrilled."
It was also a fun chance for the prospects to get away from the pressures of the draft, which starts Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN).
Grigorenko said after a full season and weeks of meetings that started at the NHL Scouting Combine last month and will continue right up until Friday morning, he and the other prospects truly have no idea what their fate holds.
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"I don't have any idea," he said. "I don't know which team wants me more."
"I think more anxious and more excited than nervous," added Murray. "Everyone doesn't really know what's going to happen. (It) just makes it that much more exciting for Friday. Excitement level is pretty high for Friday. We've all been talking amongst each other, and we really have no idea where anyone is going to go. It's pretty exciting."
It also makes it more stressful, which makes an event like Wednesday's clinic that much more of a relaxing experience.
"When we get here we still have more interviews to do with NHL teams," Murray said. "Friday is going to be an exciting day and an anxious day for me and everyone else. It's just good to go out there and get on the ice and just get a stress-reliever in."
To be able to de-stress by passing their hockey knowledge on to the next generation makes it fun at the same time.
"You just want to get your mind off draft a little bit, have fun out there, skate around with the kids, give something to them," Trouba said. "We showed them what kind of players we are and hopefully they enjoyed the experience. It was real fun for us, and I don't have to think about draft right now."
A few of the players said the youngsters asked them questions about their equipment or why they had their stick taped a certain way. Murray said no one asked him for any advice, but he had an answer prepared.
"I would say just work hard," he said. "Work as hard as you can every day. Don't take a day for granted on the ice. Just work hard and always believe that you can get there. As long as you think that you have a chance to do it, I think you work a lot harder. If you keep your priorities straight and work hard every day, everyone's got a good shot at it."
Galchenyuk said he had no doubt the kids were having fun, because he knew if he was in their place, it would be an unforgettable experience.
"They were smiling and having fun," he said. "If I would put myself in their position when I was five or six and see the big guys skating around, I'd be extremely happy, too."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK