VANCOUVER, BC - A few dozen Vancouver-area kids had the moment of their young lives on Thursday as a handful of the top prospects for the NHL Draft helped conduct an on-ice clinic.
"There weren't too many questions," said Saskatoon Blades forward Kirby Dach, "but there were a lot of smiles and (wide-eyed) looks."
The Thursday clinic has evolved into an NHL Draft tradition. Jack Hughes headlined this year's participants, and the USNDT star was joined by his older brother, Quinn, who made his NHL debut for the Canucks this season after being taken seventh overall by the Western Conference club last year.
"It was cool anytime you get to do something (like this) with your brother it's fun," said Quinn Hughes. "Next year we're going to be pretty far from each other and even this year I don't get to see (him) too much. Whenever you get these experiences, it's once in a lifetime, really."
Dach, Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens, Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram and Hughes's USNDT teammate Alex Turcotte were joined by the Canucks' Jake Virtanen as the other guest instructors
Draft proceedings are the focus heading into Friday night's opening round selections but for a couple hours on Thursday morning it was the kids turn to shine. Despite the beaming West Coast sunshine, the chilly temps of the Hillcrest Centre Arena was the place to be.
"They couldn't wait," said Vancouver-area hockey dad Harry Kaila, who is an account supervisor for Toshiba in Vancouver. He brought his two sons, Varmaana, 11, and Manav, 9, who are players for the local Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association, to take part.
"When I keep (them) away for the ice for more than three or four days, they always start bugging me to bring them back."
The Kalia family's excitement was a common theme among the parents throughout the rink.
"She was pretty pumped to be here," said dad Scott Ridgewell, whose daughter Jesse, 10, was in action. "She has an older sister (Jade, 16) and hockey pretty much takes us all around… this is a big deal for (our family)."
Flush with some autographs, Varmaana and Manav took a few playful jabs at their dad as they were leaving the rink. Asked if he was a better player than his father, Manav had some trash talk.
"He's pretty fast…but he's old."