With less than 24 hours remaining before the 2013 NHL Draft kicks off Sunday at Newark’s Prudential Center, endless questions remain surrounding which players from this year’s draft class will rise to the top at the next level.
Several of the top prospects have been on tour around the New York metro area for the last few days. The players viewed New York from atop the Empire State Building Thursday, and met with media from all over North America on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River Friday, with the Manhattan skyline as the day’s backdrop.
It’s all part of the whirlwind experience that will culminate with Sunday’s draft. Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon, ranked second among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, says the week's events have brought camaraderie to the players, many of whom have competed against each other in junior leagues.
“Now that we’re done playing against each other, it’s just about enjoying the moment and not thinking too far ahead,” MacKinnon said. “As a kid you focus on the moment of playing in the NHL one day. But it’s finally getting real. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now and it’s pretty cool that this moment has finally arrived.”
No player knows for sure where he will be selected Sunday. Ottawa 67’s forward Sean Monahan is one of the top prospects coming out of the Ontario Hockey League, and while he’s had multiple conversations with several clubs over the last few weeks, he has no idea whose jersey he will pull on Sunday.
“Wherever I go, I guess that’s the team that wants me," said Monahan, Central Scouting’s fifth-ranked North American skater. "So I’m just looking forward to being drafted by a team that wants me, and I’ll do whatever I can to help make that team better.”
Halifax’s Zachary Fucale was the only goaltender at Friday’s meet-and-greet, and while his impressive 45-5-3 record last season has him high on some draft boards, where he goes will probably be determined by which team is in the most need of an up-and-coming netminder.
“I wish I knew where I was going,” a laughing Fucale said. “There’s some nerves. There’s some curiousity in there too. I want to know what’s going to happen. But no one can really. So I have to wait for Sunday, and whatever happens, happens.”
However the draft shakes out, one thing is for sure: none of the players who take the stage will ever forget that life-changing moment. Most, like Fucale, are just trying to soak in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’m just riding the wave right now," Fucale said. "Things are going pretty fast, and it’s hard for me to realize exactly what’s going on. I’m for sure excited to be a part of this whole thing. You don’t live it 25 times, so I’m excited for Sunday. I’m going to be happy, I’m pretty sure, no matter what happens.”
The Islanders have the 15th pick in the first round of the draft. Tickets are still available to the Draft Party at Nassau Coliseum. Click here for tickets.