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Future still unclear for most following combine

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Some players might know, some don’t. It’s always different. There are always teams that show more interest than others, obviously, but at the end of the day it comes down to one team liking you.Leon Draisaitl

TORONTO, ON -- Following five days of being poked, prodded and scrutinized by 30 clubs at the NHL Scouting Combine, the picture is as clear as mud for much of the top eligible talent for the 2014 NHL Draft.

All it takes is one team, though.

“I don’t think players can tell where they go,” said Leon Draisaitl, a member of the Prince Albert Raiders and a consensus to be selected among the first half dozen come draft day on June 27th in Philadelphia. “Some players might know, some don’t. It’s always different. There are always teams that show more interest than others, obviously, but at the end of the day it comes down to one team liking you.

“I think it’s been a really fun time and an exciting week.”

For Lethbridge Hurricanes center Reid Duke, ranked 137th by Central Scouting, the combine served as a re-enforcement that he will hear his name called on draft day.

For 2014, a two-stage process was established for invitees. The top 75 players on Central Scouting's Players to Watch List were invited at an earlier date, while the final stage involved NHL teams voting in the remaining 45 players.

Duke wasn't sure whether or not his participation was automatic, but regardless, a chance to participate has given him a reassurance of his draft day fate.

“I really didn’t see too much,” Duke said. “Obviously, I’m in the top 120 here so that gives me a little bit of an idea here but I’m just excited for the opportunity.”

Like Duke, Chase De Leo of the Portland Winterhawks is a little fuzzy on where his draft fate lies.

The 5-foot-9, 178-pound forward met with 10 NHL teams over the course of the four days leading up to the fitness testing program, but leaves just as perplexed as when he arrived.

“I think for sure it confuses you more,” said De Leo, ranked 36th by Central Scouting. “You can’t look too far into that. Whatever happens, happens. In the end, everything happens for a reason. I know it sounds cliché, but you’ve just got to enjoy it. I have no regrets. I did everything I felt necessary. I’ve just got to hang out now and wait until draft day.

“All the hard work’s over. Nothing you can change now. I think I’m happy with the way everything went. I had a lot of fun with it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was told to enjoy it and have fun and I think I did that, for sure.”

Still, there are some members of the 2014 draft class that feel they’ve got a fix on where and who they’ll fall to on draft day.

William Nylander, ranked second among Central Scouting’s European skaters, is expected to be among the first batch of those selected on the opening day of the draft -- reserved for those with first-round status.

The son of former Calgary Flames forward and NHL veteran Michael Nylander, has his potential team in the crosshairs.

“I’ve got a great idea of where I might go,” said Nylander, who met with 28 teams and gave the impression he’s ready, willing and able to return to North America next season after spending the past three years playing in Sweden. “We’ll wait and see. I set high goals for myself so I’d like to go as high as I can.”

Nylander isn’t the only confident one.

Green Bay Gamblers centre Nick Schmaltz, whose brother Jordan was selected in the first round, 25th overall by the St. Louis Blues 23 months ago, figures he has a beat on when he’ll hear his named called on draft day.

And he’s got a couple targets in mind.

“There are definitely a few teams out there that really like me,” he said. “It’s really exciting.

“I think I have an opportunity to go pretty high in the draft so I think it’d be pretty cool to see that. You never know. Maybe somewhere from mid-to-late first round. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Whether or not Schmaltz hears his name called where he expects remains to be seen.

He, like the peers in his draft class, simply won’t find out until draft weekend.

But all it will take is one team to help fulfill his draft dream and make his prediction come true in the process.

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