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Draft Day: Prospects Anxious in Final 24 Hours

by Michael Schwartz / Columbus Blue Jackets

"With the No. 1 selection of the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks select…"

These are the words millions of people are anticipating as the NHL Draft commences tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Teams are anxious to see new faces, fans are thrilled for the future, and the prospects… well, they're pretty excited themselves.

"I'm nervous about trying to fall asleep tonight," said Karl Alzner, a defenseman from Burnaby, B.C., who is expected to be selected early in the first round. "I'm hoping I can get some sleep because I know I'm going to be jittery and worried about what's going to happen."

Many of the top prospects in this year's draft class, including Patrick Kane, Kyle Turris, Alzner and others, were invited to Columbus earlier this week to partake in numerous activities such as attending a Columbus Crew soccer game, a prospect media luncheon, and helping out with a drill session with current Blue Jackets for young local hockey players.

Though most of the players have enjoyed being in the spotlight, and according to one prospect, "treated like kings" for the past week, it doesn't mean they aren't suffering from butterflies in their stomachs.

"I was at the draft last year so I watched some of the guys sitting in the stands and biting their nails, so I thought to myself, 'I'm going to do the same things they did' because I guess that's what you're supposed to do when you're waiting to get drafted," Alzner joked. "Hopefully I don't have to wait too long for them to call my name, but I'm just excited to see who wants me."

Mock drafts have been circulating the Web for months, but come draft day, nobody knows when or where anyone is going. It seems like every year at least one player drops a significant amount of spots, after being projected as a top pick.

The NHL prospects have to be worried about the same thing... right?

"I try not to think about it, it takes the fun out of it," said Sam Gagner, a London, Ontario-native who is also projected to go early in the first round. "It's an exciting time for everyone here. Whoever picks me, I am going to be glad for the opportunity to get a tryout.

"There's a long way to go before becoming an NHL player. At this time, I'm just having fun with the entire process."

The draft may be a new experience for Gagner, but it is a familiar one for his family. His father, Dave, played 15 seasons in the NHL and finished his career with 719 points. The elder Gagner has given his son some advice for the weekend.

"My dad has been through this before, so he's been able to give me tips," Gagner said. "He just tells me to have fun. I owe a lot to him for my success so far, but I thank him for his support."

Throughout the week, the players have had the opportunity to experience the city of Columbus first-hand. Most of the prospects, including Alzner, would love for the chance to play in the Ohio's state capital.

"I think all the parts I've seen in Columbus have been good," Alzner said. "There's so much history here with college to professional sports. It would be an awesome city to be playing in."

So sit back, relax, and get ready to see the Blue Jackets' and the NHL's future this weekend right here in Columbus.

Chicago, you are on the clock.

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